I know the word “merit” will send up red flags for Protestants, but what I mean has nothing to do with justification. By supererogatory merit I mean doing something not required, and doing it for the purpose of earning a reward (not of being justified). The reason I ask the question is because normally I’ve read Matt 5:38-48 as a set of disjointed verses (reading it in the KJV which is always printed verse-by-verse). But recently having read it in a few modern translations that arrange the verses in paragraphs, I noticed something interesting.

The verses on turning to the other cheek, giving your coat to anyone who sues for your shirt, loving your enemies, all seem to be connected to verse 46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” So its all about trying to earn a reward. “And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?” Ah, and its about doing more than others!

This calls in question the traditional interpretation that its a sin to defend yourself, to defend yourself in a lawsuit, to hate your enemy, and presents these things as extras, something above and beyond for those who want to do more than others and earn a special reward.

So my question is basically, what do you think? Is there any basis to this interpretation or do you think its entirely wrong?

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