Characteristics of the Kingdom of God

What are the characteristics of the Kingdom of God, according to Jesus Christ? This is what we are discussing in this video. The basic concept of the kingdom of God is that it is not a worldly kingdom or it is not an earthly kingdom. This is a truth confessed by our Lord Himself during the crucifixion trial. He was standing before Pilate, the Roman governor, as a political prisoner. Pilate asked Him: "Are You the King of the Jews?" (John 18: 33). There is an error in this question. Jesus was the king of the Jews as well as the King of all who believed in Him. He makes clear this truth in His answer.

John 18: 36, 37

36  Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here."

37 Pilate therefore said to Him, "Are You a king then?" Jesus answered, "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."

In His reply, Jesus reveals two fundamental characteristics of the Kingdom.

1.      His Kingdom is not of this world.

2.      And the kingdom belongs to those who hears His voice.

Both these statements are important. He is, in truth, a King. He has a kingdom. It is a heavenly kingdom. He is not the King of the Jews alone. He is the King of all who hears His voice.

The Greek word for “world” is “kosmos”. The Greek word means, this world including its inhabitants. Or let us say that Jesus said that His kingdom does not belong or comes from this worldly systems including its worldly inhabitants. He cites a proof for his claim. If His kingdom was from this world, he would have soldiers to protect him and they would fight against the Jews who arrested Him. In the political background of the Jewish rebels like Zealots who fought against the Roman Empire, Jesus made it clear that He had no soldiers to fight for Him, because His kingdom is not from this worldly system. His kingdom is not established by soldiers and swords. He never preached to establish a worldly kingdom. His is a spiritual kingdom.

Jesus proclaims the Kingdom

With this introduction, let us go to the characteristics of the Kingdom of God. The first characteristic of the Kingdom of God is that it is an inaugurated kingdom. Jesus said to Pilate “You say rightly that I am a king”. He spoke of the kingdom in present tense, as if it already exists. He did not say that He will be a king someday in future, but that He is king.

When do a kingdom really come into existence? A king is a king as soon as he is anointed as a king. A Kingdom comes into existence when the king proclaims his kingdom. Where there is a king, there is his kingdom. To cite a contemporary example, where ever a Magistrate is, there is the judicial court. A magistrate can never go out of his court. Because he is the court. So a king is the kingdom. Where ever the king is, there is his kingdom. When a king proclaims his kingdom, it comes into existence.

So Jesus proclaimed His Kingdom as He began His ministry on this earth. His first proclamation was not about salvation from sins, but His kingdom. His kingdom is the final consummation of salvation. According to Matthew, Jesus started His ministry in Galilee, in the city of Capernaum. “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17). His first statement was the proclamation of the Kingdom of God.

But it was a low profile inauguration of the kingdom. The king was born in an unknown place, kept in a manger, fled to Egypt, came back after some years, and lived as an ordinary boy with His parents. Then at the appointed time, He went to John the Baptist and received baptism with water unto repentance. There was nothing special about all these things. Everything was low and humble.


Jesus describes the beginning and growth of the kingdom in the parable of the yeast and the dough. In this short parable, recorded in the Gospel of Luke 17: 20-30, Jesus speaks of two appearances of the Kingdom of God. One that was already present in Jesus and the second that would happen in the future. The present manifestation is not an observable magnificent event. It is like the yeast in the wheat dough. The Kingdom is “like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened." (Luke 13: 21). It has a humble beginning and gradual influence and growth, which will be finally consummated in future.

Thus, it has begun when God himself entered into human history as a man. The kingdom was inaugurated as Jesus announced it. From that day onwards, those who hears His voice are called to join the kingdom. He offered inheritance to the kingdom to all those who respond positively to His kingdom message.

The first characteristic of the Kingdom of God is that, the kingdom is already inaugurated by the proclamation of Jesus. But it had a humble beginning and will have a magnificent fulfilment in the future.

The kingdom of God is a mystery

Though it was inaugurated by Jesus’ as He proclaimed it, at present, the kingdom of God remains a mystery. It means, it is not comprehensible to all. It is a mystery revealed and hidden at the same time. After the narration of the parable of the sower, the disciples went to Jesus and asked for an explanation to it. They could not understand well the hidden meaning in the parable. To them Jesus answered:


Mark 4: 11, 12

11 And He said to them, "To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables,

12 so that 'Seeing they may see and not perceive, And hearing they may hear and not understand; Lest they should turn, And their sins be forgiven them.'"

When Jesus spoke about the mysteries of the Kingdom of God in parables, He had two intentions. All of the listeners are not supposed to understand the mysteries. And those who are chosen should understand it very well. Here Jesus speaks about two groups of people. “to you” and “those who are outside”.

Though many may hear the words of Jesus, some among them are outside the kingdom of God. They will hear Jesus revealing the mysteries of the Kingdom, but will not understand it. It will not go deep into their heart and will not bear mature fruits. The words of Jesus will have the fate of the seeds that fell on the way side, on the rock and among the thorns. They do not understand the mysteries so that they would not turn to God and their sins will not be forgiven. But to those who are chosen and predestined for the kingdom, they will understand it well. To them His words are like the seeds that fell on prepared fertile soil. It will bear hundred fold matured fruits. Many hears the good news about the arrival of the Kingdom, but only few understand the spiritual mystery about the kingdom. Only those who understand the spiritual mystery join the Kingdom. Clearly the kingdom is not for all, but to those who are chosen.

Since it is a hidden kingdom, Jesus wants us to seek and find it. In Matthew 13: 44, Jesus speaks a short parable. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. The man, found the treasure which was hidden in a field. Only kingdom seekers will find it.

The second characteristic of the Kingdom of God is that, the Kingdom of God is a mystery. It means, all who hear the good news about the arrival of the Kingdom may not understand and accept it. Only the chosen people will understand the mystery and accept the Kingdom.

Kingdom among you


Where is this mystical kingdom now? As we said earlier, Jesus inaugurated the kingdom by proclaiming its arrival in Him. One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “when the kingdom of God would come”. Jesus answered them that "The kingdom of God does not come with observation” (Luke 17:20). The Jews were expecting the spectacular appearance of their Messiah. The Messiah of the Jews was a king who would come supernaturally or with supernatural authority and would destroy all their Gentiles enemies. He would recover all the Promised Land and reign there after gloriously. But Jesus said that the first appearance of the kingdom is not a break through with a magnificent show. Because it is a mystery that some may comprehend and others may not observe.


So to the Pharisees, Jesus said, “For the Kingdom of God is already among you." (Luke 17:21 - NLT).

The Kingdom came and lived among them. The kingdom was in Jesus. In Luke 11: 20 Jesus said: "But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.” The presence of the kingdom was revealed through signs and wonders. The signs Jesus performed was the signs of the presence of the Kingdom among them. In John 2: 11, we read about the miracle of turning water into wine. After the narration of the incident, John comments, “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.”


In Luke 17, after answering the Pharisees that the kingdom is already among them, Jesus continues to speak to His disciples about the second arrival of the King. The Second Advent is a spectacular break through into human history. Jesus said: "For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other, so it will be on the day when the Son of Man comes...” (Luke 17:24 - NLT). The same event is foretold also in Matthew 24: 27 “For as the lightning flashes in the east and shines to the west, so it will be when the Son of Man comes.”


So the kingdom at present is the first appearance of it. This is not a fulfilled kingdom. The fulfilment comes only in a later time. In between, there is a time of suffering for the Messiah. That is what Jesus says in Luke 17: 25 "But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” The first appearance of the king was as the suffering servant as prophesied by Isaiah in chapter 53. His second appearance will be as the King of the kingdom of God. No one shall miss His second advent.


The suffering in between the two appearances is not only for Jesus, but for all who believes in Him. That is why Jesus said, in Luke 9: 23“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (NIV). Kingdom living on this earth is not a life on a bed of roses, but it is suffering with Christ. Paul says in Colossians 1:24 “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church”. That means that Paul rejoices in his sufferings, because he suffers for the body of Christ, that is the church.


But we are not left abandoned to suffer in this world. Jesus has promised His presence with us. Matthew 18: 20 “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them." The verse simply means, when two or three gathers in His name, His presence will be there. Two or three and the presence of the king is the presence of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is always with us, we are never out of it.


The third characteristic of the Kingdom of God is that, the kingdom has two appearances. It is already among us. The Second Advent will be magnificent like the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. In between the church has to suffer many things.   

Kingdom of Chosen people

Let us read Matthew 18: 20 once again: “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them." Who are these two or three whom Jesus honour by His presence? This is another important question. We may answer in one sentence that these two or three are the inheritors to the Kingdom. As we said earlier, there are two groups of people: “those who are outside” and those who understand the mysteries of the kingdom. It means, by His sovereignty, God keeps some outside and elects some to understand the mysteries.   

In Matthew 22 Jesus narrates a long parable of a Wedding feast. The feast was arranged by a king in connection with the marriage of his son. Since the invited special guests did not arrive in time, he ordered his servants to go to the street and gather all the destitute. Verse 10 says that the “servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good.” There was no discrimination in gathering the people to the feast. Both bad and good people were gathered. Certainly, they had no proper wedding clothes to attend a fest arranged by a king. So the king graciously gifted beautiful wedding garments at the entrance of the hall. They were supposed to receive it from there, dress themselves properly for the feast of the king and enter the wedding hall.

But one man refused to receive the gift of the beautiful dress. He entered the hall in his dirty clothes. Entering into the hall was not prohibited to anyone who was gathered. One had the freedom to receive the kingly gift of wedding garments and enter the wedding hall or enter it in his dirty clothes itself. But before the feast really began, the king himself came to meet his guests. And he found one man without the wedding garments. The king understood that this man was so haughty to refuse his gift of wedding dress. So, “the king ordered to, “Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' (13) After this he announces an important principle of the Kingdom of God, "For many are called, but few are chosen." (14).

This is the main message of the parable. There is an allusion in this verse to the Roman custom of raising their militia. By the law of the land, all Roman citizens above the age of 20 were soldiers. Before Caesar Augustus, there was no peace time military. People were gathered whenever a military operation is in need. But the by the time of Jesus, Romans had a stand by military who maintained peace in different regions of the empire. They were trained soldiers. So special recruitment to full time military service was conducted occasionally. The recruitment would start by announcing it with the accompaniment of trumpets and so on. All who were healthy and above 20 years would gather to join the military. But all of them were not chosen. The selection process was very tough. Only few from the large gathering will be chosen to join the military. And that is what the king said, "For many are called, but few are chosen."  

Jesus is using this contemporary practice to describe the gathering and election process of the Kingdom of God. Many are gathered to join the kingdom. Many will respond positively to the trumpet call of the gospel. But only few among them will be chosen to inherit the kingdom of God. Jesus simply means that, all those who are around Him will not inherit the kingdom. Calling or gathering is the beginning of the process of election. It is not an assurance of inheritance to the kingdom.

Today also, many will gather in the churches or crusades responding to the gospel. They may fill up a decision card and join a church. And even some of them may perform miracles in the name of Jesus. But Jesus will have nothing to do with many of them. Only few will be chosen to inherit the kingdom. Gathering in a church or crusade, regularly attending Sunday services, tithing and even performing miracles in Jesus name is not an assurance that one is an inheritor of the Kingdom.

In Matthew 7: 21, Jesus says, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” He continued to explain this situation: "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'  And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (22, 23).

The kingdom of God is a kingdom where many are called but few are chosen to inherit it. And, different from the parable, the chosen are not just invitees but inheritors to the kingdom. By the Grace of God, we receive the gift of faith to believe in Jesus Christ. Once we have accepted Him as our savior, the relationship is changed to co-inheritors with Christ. And thus we enter the kingdom of God as inheritors. 


Romans 8: 17 “and if children, then heirs-heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”


Luke 12: 32 "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.


So we are inheriting the kingdom of God as Israelites inherited the Promised Land years ago. The Kingdom of God is our Promised Land.


The fourth characteristic of the Kingdom of God is that, it belongs to a few chosen people. Many are called but few are chosen.


Kingdom of God has power and authority

So His chosen people, though they are few in number, they represent the Kingdom on earth in this present age. A kingdom always has power and authority. God’s kingdom is a sovereign Kingdom. Its sphere is all the created things.


Colossians 1: 16 “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.”

And surely the creator has authority and power over all His created things. Living and nonliving, thrones, dominions, principalities and powers of the universe – all comes under His sovereign authority. In Colossians 2: 15, Apostle Paul says that Jesus, by His death on the cross has “disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”

The true nature of the authority may be understood from the story of the Roman centurion. The centurion came to Jesus for the healing of his servant who lie paralyzed. Jesus offered to go to his house and heal him. But, may be because he is a Gentile person, he reveals his unworthiness to receive a Jewish Rabbi to his home. He says, he knows what authority is and that Jesus has such authority. So if Jesus says go, the disease will go.

His words are recorded in Matthew 8: 9


"For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it."

The centurion is under higher authorities and he has soldiers under his authority. So he knows what authority is. He gives a simple definition to authority. Authority is ordering someone to go, come, do and do not do and everything is done as he wishes. This is the kind of authority, the chosen people of God has at present. We are the kingdom and we have authority to command to go, come, do and don’t do. And it will be obeyed.


Let me quote Matthew 18:20, once again: “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them." As I said before, two or three of His chosen people and His mighty presence makes the kingdom of God. And the Kingdom has authority to bind and loose. Jesus said, “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 18:18). This authority is sovereign, means there is nothing above it. And, by His Grace, God is pleased to share this authority with His kingdom people.


The fourth characteristic of the Kingdom of God is that, two or three gathered in His name and His presence among them, constitute the Kingdom of God. They would have authority to bind and loose. 


Sojourners and pilgrims


Let us call the inheritors of the kingdom as kingdom people here after. The main characteristic of the kingdom people is that they live on this earth as “sojourners and pilgrims” (1 Peter 2:11). They are the one who lives in this world with their heart in the Kingdom of God. Jesus said in John 17:16, "They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” Once we are born again, we become foreigners to this world. So we long for what is above and not for what is on this earth. Because we know that, “But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” (2 Peter 3:7). And so we do not run after worldly material possession, rather we are investing in the Kingdom of God. The kingdom people may have material possessions in this world, but their treasure is in the Kingdom of God. They are not bound to their material possessions.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:


Matthew 6: 19, 20, 21

19 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;

20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

21   For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”


So we live in this world like Abraham, as foreigner, dwelling in tents, waiting “for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God”. (Hebrews 11:9, 10). This is the true mindset of kingdom people.


Kingdom first

As a result we are different and separate from worldly people. We have a different priority in our life. This is an important basic character of the Kingdom people.  Jesus said in Matthew 6: 33,


"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”


Here Jesus is presenting two goals of life. One is the kingdom of God and other is “these things”. He is placing us in a position to prioritize between them. What are “all these things”, Jesus spoke of? In the same chapter, Matthew 6: 31 we read:


"Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'”

After this sentence Jesus said in verse 32,


“For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”

The Greek word used for “seek” in the above verse means an intensive desire. “Drink” and “wear” is not simply food and clothes. It speaks broadly about worldly material possessions. So Jesus says that the Gentiles have an intensive desire for material things. They are anxious about tomorrow. Because they do not have a heavenly father who knows their needs and add all these to them. It is a Gentile character to intensely desire and run after material possessions. But those who believe and relay on the Heavenly Father has an assurance that He will add to us everything we need. They know that their inheritance is not this world. Their heart is in the heavenly kingdom. So they do not intensely desire for material possessions.

Placing us before a contrast between the Gentiles and the Kingdom people, Jesus advises us to prioritize our desires. We should put Kingdom of God first in our life, above all worldly things. If we do so, we will inherit it and its righteousness and God shall supply all our needs. We need not run after it, need not worry about it. It is our heavenly father’s responsibility to add to our life, all essentials to live in this world.

But the real problem of today’s Christians is that, they are running after the worldly things, like the Gentiles, believing that the Kingdom of God will follow them. The value system of the Kingdom is inverse. Run after the Kingdom and all we need will be added to us.

The purpose of these words of Jesus is not to comfort us. It is not an assurance of an abundant supply of worldly material things or richness. But it t demands us to rearrange our preferences so that we may live in the kingdom and inherit the fulfilled Kingdom in future. Jesus is detaching the worldly blessings from the kingdom of God. He commands us to intensely desire and seek the Kingdom of God.

The prioritization of the Kingdom is well explained in two short parables recorded in Matthew.


Matthew 13: 44-46

44 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls,

46  who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

The value of the kingdom above all earthly possessions are emphasizes here. This is the priority Jesus asks for the Kingdom. In Matthew 16: 26 Jesus says, "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Se we prioritize the Kingdom of God in our life. We live here as foreigners. We invest in the kingdom so that our heart will be there.

The fifth characteristic of the Kingdom of God is that, we are sojourners and foreigners in this world. We are Kingdom seekers. Our priority is the Kingdom of God.

A Righteous Kingdom

As I said, this world is not our home. We live here as foreigners. So there is a tension in our life between the system of this world and the values of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God has a different righteousness than this world. Paul in Romans 14:17 says, “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” The context of this verse is particularly about food. It is about, eating certain food and not eating some other.  But in a broader sense, Paul is speaking about all material, outward, worldly things. Paul says that, the Kingdom of God is not material things. It cannot be assessed by the outward appearance or good works that we do. It is a kingdom of righteousness. Where there is righteousness, there is peace and joy. Because God’s righteousness is unpolluted by sin. The standards of worldly righteousness and the righteousness of the Kingdom of God are different. Righteousness of the Kingdom is not put on from the outside, but a righteousness that is lived out from the inside.

But since God’s righteousness is different from the righteousness of this world, there is a conflict between them. Jesus is speaking about this conflict in Matthew 5: 10:


“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”


 The world persecute us because we are living according to another standard of righteousness. We are called to walk, work, speak and think according to the righteousness of God that He has placed within us when we are born again. Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to us, and now we are to live according to it. Thus we have become “peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9)

Since we are persecuted for righteousness sake, we thirst and hunger for righteousness. So Jesus promised us,


“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.”

(Matthew 5:6).

The righteousness of the kingdom is not something we earn by works, but we inherit by faith.


Romans 3: 22

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (NIV).

Thus, when we are born again, by our faith in Jesus Christ, we are made right and justified before God.

The sixth characteristic of the Kingdom of God is that, the Kingdom people live according to a different righteousness than the righteousness of this world. So they will be “persecuted for righteousness' sake”.

Love your enemies

The righteousness of the kingdom is to “love your enemies”. In Luke 6: 27 - 36, Jesus is teaching us on how to love our enemies. Verse 27 begins the exhortation with saying, “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies”. Verse 35 says, "But love your enemies”. Between these two exhortations of “love your enemies”, Jesus gives three examples of loving our enemies. He is teaching us to bear all ill treatments from the enemy without retaliating, to give up all our possessions to those who ask for it and to give without any expectation of repayment. If we are supposed to love our enemies in this way, how much more we should do to those whom we love.

Jesus’s exhortations here seems inconsistent and legally chaotic. Our life cannot go on well following these exhortations literally. Does that mean that Jesus was wrong? But we know that Jesus would never speak gibberish and nonsense. He is not saying shocking statements for cheap publicity. Jesus is true and serious about developing a different attitude towards our enemies. If fact Jesus was not an enemy of all his enemies. He wants all His followers to love their enemies.

These are the three examples:


1. Turn the other cheek (Luke 6:29a)


Luke 6: 29 “To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also.”


Was Jesus talking about suffering physical injuries? This will be madness in this world. The natural tendency of any human is to resist or escape from physical injuries from another man or from an animal or from any other injurious situation. To show the other cheek to the enemy is inviting physical injuries.


Striking a person on the cheek was more than a physical injury. It was an insult to the dignity of a person. In Jewish culture, the greatest insult, the most demeaning and contemptuous action possible, was a slap on the cheek. It was an ultimate and deliberate gesture of disrespect. Some Christian historians say that this was the way Jewish synagogue leaders put people out of synagogue - especially Jews who had converted to Christianity. The salve masters would strike the slaves on their back and face. The slaves would not retaliate. They stand showing the other cheek also to their master.


So the slap on the cheek refers to receiving a deep insult. Turning the other cheek means that when you are severely insulted, don’t return in the same way. When you are slandered, keep silent, and let them insult you again. Be silent as Jesus stood before the soldiers when we was beaten and spitted on. Do not behave in the same way as the world treats you. Because we are peacemakers. The Kingdom belongs to peacemakers. The kingdom people do not expect to get justice in this world. And they can never accept the justice of this world. So they may be persecuted for the sake of righteousness.


Matthew 5: 11, 12

11 Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.

12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


2. Give your tunic (Luke 6:29b)

The second example from Jesus is as challenging as the above.


Luke 6: 29 (b) And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either.”


The cloak is the outer garment while the tunic is the inner garment. It would be like saying, “If someone takes your coat, give him the shirt also.”


But there is something specific Jesus had in mind. Under Roman rule, the Jewish people did not own much. Most of them were quite poor. There was one thing, however, that almost everyone owned – a cloak. A cloak was a very important piece of clothing. It was the way they kept warm in cold weather. It kept the sun off in the hot weather. It served as a blanket or pillow at night. Their cloak was so important that in Exodus 22: 26 and 27, God commanded,


"If you ever take your neighbor's garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down. For that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What will he sleep in? And it will be that when he cries to Me, I will hear, for I am gracious.”


God commands that if a man takes another man’s cloak as a pledge, the cloak must be given back before nightfall so that he can have something to sleep in.

Then Jesus comes along and says, “If someone wants your cloak, give it to him and hand over your tunic as well. Give him your coat and your clothes.” Before Jesus, John the Baptist also taught a similar principle: “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise." (John 3:11)

He is teaching a principle almost exactly similar to the slap on the cheek. He is not saying that we should stand on the street corner and let someone rob us. John was talking about being generous to the poor. Jesus was talking about letting your enemy win, even if you are right. Winning over your enemy is not the righteousness of the Kingdom. Rejoicing exceedingly over “all kinds of evil against you falsely for His sake” is righteousness of the Kingdom. (Matthew 5: 11, 12)


3. Do not seek repayment (Luke 6:30)

Luke 6: 30  “Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.”


This is the third example to love our enemies. The Jews understood this statement in the background of the Old Testament law and the Roman Empire. They have the Old Testament law of clearing all debts to their brothers on every seventh and fiftieth year and granting all slaves absolute freedom. And for Jews of the time, the tax to the Roman Empire was injustice. What was Jesus referring to it?


In our Lord ’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, “And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12).


Luke 11:4  “And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.”


Jesus connects, forgiving the enemies with protection from the “evil one”. Jesus meant to forgive your enemies, even if they do not return the debts they owe to you. Forgive them, if they forget you; forgive even if they neglect and reject you. That is our cross that we bear daily for Christ’s sake.

All these teachings are hard and practically impossible to practice in real life. But Jesus was speaking about a different Kingdom where the behavior and conduct of His followers are radically different. All the above three examples are summed up in the verse, “Love your enemies”.

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