One of the things that makes the message of the Gospel so revolutionary is that it reframes the way we think the world should work. After all, His ways are not our ways.
But too often, when a verse challenges the way we do things to a degree that seems unreasonable, it can be easier to just ignore it entirely. For many Christian, there is a pattern of selectively breezing over some of Christ’s more difficult commands, while favoring parts of Scripture that are easy to understand and apply.
But not only does that cut Christ’s message short, it also causes us to miss out on the real joys of trusting God—even when what He’s asking is hard.
Here’s a look at five verses that many Christians often ignore:
Do Not Resist an Evil Person
“Do not resist an evil person … And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:38-42).
The Sermon on the Mount is one of Jesus’ most radical messages. In verse 38 of Matthew 5, Christ turns old logic on its head and asks His followers to think about their “enemies” in a new way. We’re all most likely familiar with Jesus’ command turn the other cheek (“If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also”), but the heart of the message isn’t just about forgiveness; it’s also about a posture of grace and compassion—not defensiveness.
Often, in modern evangelicalism, there is a tendency to want to defend our faith, fight in a culture war and be “warriors” for the Church. But Jesus challenges us to re-examine our view of justice. Clearly, we are called to help the poor, and we should be angry when vulnerable people are taken advantage of, but Christ asks us not to be defensive when someone does something to us personally.
In an era of product boycotts and ever-present outrage, the command to “not resist an evil person” is a difficult one that is too often ignored.
Christians Should Expect to Suffer
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything … Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James: 1:2-12).
Out of the 12 original disciples of Jesus, 10 were martyred, one was exiled and one committed suicide. Obviously, they lived in a time and a place particularly hostile to Christianity, but they readily expect temporal suffering in exchange for eternal rewards.
In much of Western evangelicalism, where civil opposition is frequently conflated with legitimate persecution, we’ve too often maintained the expectations that Christians not only deserve to maintain happy, prosperous lives, but that we’re justified in being shocked and outraged when culture does not share our values.
But James has a different message than the prosperity gospel and self-help platitudes. He tells followers of Christ that we should expect our faith to be tested—because that’s how it is made stronger. We should expect suffering, not because God’s malicious, but because He wants us to know what it is like to lean on Him for strength.
If we are chasing temporal happiness at the cost of eternal rewards, then our priorities are backwards. In a culture of creature comfort and abundance, James’ message is too often ignored in favor of the type of “Gospel” that equates strong faith with earthly success.
Hatred Is the Same Thing As Murder
“Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him” (1 John 3:15).
Jesus constantly challenged us to not only examine our own outward behaviors, but to also constantly keep our inward selves in check. In Matthew, He equates lust to adultery, and in 1 John, He illustrates an even stronger example, saying that hatred is the same as murder.
Sure, there probably aren’t a lot of Christians who would say they “hate” someone, but if we’re honest with ourselves, our actions don’t always bear that out. Because for Jesus, hatred wasn’t simply wishing ill on someone—it was the absence of love: “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.”
The verse is simply about not hating—it’s about not loving. That’s why it’s so challenging and so frequently ignored.
When we talk about bad someone—a friend, a cultural figure, a leader—if our motivations are not born out of love and correction, then we should carefully check our motives. That’s partly why Jesus used such dramatic examples: It’s easy to judge outward actions, but for God, it all comes down to matters of the heart.
Don’t Give Into Fear
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Fear is one of the most basic human impulses. We use it keep ourselves out of dangerous situations and stay protected from harm. But in faith that teaches “Anyone who loves their life will lose it,” self-preservation isn’t always a good thing.
When commanding Joshua to lead his people into the promise land, God told him, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” In Philippians, we are told, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Again, the issue of fear comes down to trust. If we believe God is who He says He is, then we have nothing to fear. Our own fear about situations reveals the level of trust we have in His promises.
Whether it’s how we deal with current-event situations like the refugee crisis or even personal life choices like being obedient to calling even when it involves risk, letting fear play more of a role in shaping our mindset than love warps our perspective.
It’s why we are told that, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
Warnings Against Wealth
“Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23).
In Matthew 19, a young man seemingly deeply concerned about his eternal salvation confronts Jesus. “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” He tells Jesus that he has dutifully followed all of His moral commands, even loving his neighbor as himself. The man then asks, “What do I still lack?”
Jesus tells the man (who the Bible says was rich), “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the man walks away, Jesus gives the example of the camel passing through the eye of needle, demonstrating how hard it is “for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
For people who live in the richest country in history, this is a challenging message.
Jesus understood that to follow Him meant committing everything—our entire hearts and devotion to Him. And for many people, the security and comfort money provides can occupy a bigger place in our hearts than anything else. That’s why Jesus told His followers that “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
The verse isn’t simply a condemnation of greed. It’s an illustration of how much God wants us to trust Him fully; to not worry; to put our trust in something that “no thief comes near and no moth destroys.”
When we spend time worrying about our bank accounts and financial security, we are ignoring the command, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.”
Jesse Carey is a mainstay on the weekly RELEVANT Podcast and member of RELEVANT's executive board. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two kids.