Okay, so it sounds a little deep tonight, doesn’t it? But that’s only because most of us aren’t familiar with the exact words we use to describe something we have all experienced. So let’s start with a definition. A mondegreen is something that we hear or possibly read that is, technically, incorrect. Our brains tend to go into overdrive and make what we hear or read fit what we think should be correct – but it’s not.
Most mondegreens happen when we hear songs. Did you ever hear lyrics to a song and later find out that you got it all wrong? One of the most famous examples is from Jimi Hendrix and his song, “Purple Haze.” One line in the song is thought to be “excuse me while I eat my pie” when in reality it is “excuse me while I kiss the sky.”
The famous band Kiss wrote lyrics to one of their greatest hits that were thought to be “rock and roll all night and part of every day.” In reality, the lyrics, as originally written, were “rock and roll all night and party every day.” Knowing the group, that makes much more sense! Another example is a famous song, “Louis, Louis” that was actually investigated by the FBI back in the 1960’s as it was thought that the lyrics were lewd and cause for the arrest of the band members. However, after months of investigation, it was determined that the real lyrics were unintelligible….
Our daughter, Kristin, started a children’s choir that occasionally sang on Sunday mornings. Everyone thought that they were the “Sunshine Singers” when in reality they were the “Sonshine Singers” – reflecting the glory of the Son of God with their young voices. There are endless examples that we have all experienced throughout our lives. And the Bible has a number of opportunities to either misread or mis-hear passages that seemingly familiar to us.
One such example is the verse in Exodus or a similar verse in Leviticus that states “an eye for an eye.” Our common interpretation is that we are at liberty to do violence to someone who has done violence to us. However, the verse was intended as a limitation for retaliation – if you hit me, I am not supposed to kill you. My retaliation is limited to to no more than what you have done to me or my family. Practically, it was used as a guideline for judges – a way to use prudence when determining sentencing so that there wouldn’t be endless rounds of retribution and retaliation.
However, to follow this line of thought into the New Testament, Jesus expects us to rise above the need for retribution and punishment. This is a vast departure from the words we hear in the Old Testament. In the years since the Law was given, including the Ten Commandments, Jesus calls us to a higher standard. The old ways of “an eye for an eye” have changed.
We are to rise above the fray and not seek retribution. We are to be about forgiveness and love. I know, on the surface, that doesn’t sound fair, but being a Christian isn’t about being fair – it’s about being an ambassador of Jesus. We are called to a higher level – a level above our humanness – becoming more like Jesus as we mature in our walk with Him.
Our verse for tonight encapsulates the wishes of Jesus in this matter of dealing with our adversaries. In the first Gospel of the New Testament, Matthew records the words of Jesus and what He wants for us. In not uncertain terms, we are told in Matthew 5:43-44, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”
Sometimes, that’s an incredibly tough assignment for me. I can’t always get there… in fact, most of the time, I can’t get there…. My encouragement tonight is that Jesus knows that we are human and that we aren’t perfect. And that’s okay… But we are to try and become more like Jesus as we grow deeper in our faith. Remember, we are saved by grace – it’s a free gift to each of us who believes in Christ. My prayer is that we will rise to achieve the higher standard that God calls us to – one of compassion, forgiveness and, most importantly, love. We need more of that in our world today. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…