When the father of a murdered teen showed a heart of forgiveness to his daughter’s killer, waves of shock rippled through the courtroom. The serial killer, who had sat emotionless while the families of several victims voiced their pain and rage, broke down in tears at this unexpected moment of grace. Though painful, the father chose to show a taste of Christ-like love even in his pain.

Jesus’ ministry from the beginning challenged the natural inclinations of His hearers. The Jewish expectation of the Messiah was one who would conquer their enemies and establish the reign of God’s kingdom on earth. So when Jesus said, “Do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other also. . . . If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles” (Matthew 5:39-41), they were probably confused.

Similarly, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus started off with a series of seemingly contradictory statements. Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, He said, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, they shall be comforted, inherit the earth, obtain mercy, be called the sons of God, and see God (Matthew 5:3-10 NKJV).

With these statements, Jesus introduced to His followers a new way of thinking and perceiving the world. While the religious leaders of His day focused on actions, Jesus pointed to the heart as the source of adultery and murder (Matthew 5:21-29).

When Jesus lives in our hearts, we can express His kingdom life and thoughts and reveal to the world a new way of living.

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Matthew 2:1-12