You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 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 (NIV)
In Matthew 5 Jesus moves on to the topic of retribution and retaliation. God knows the human tendency to want to retaliate when wronged and to want to seek retribution when a loss has been suffered.
Jesus’ teaching goes contrary to human nature. It is not a case of biting your tongue when wronged (wanting to retaliate, but preventing yourself from doing so). What Jesus is envisaging is a change of heart that results in an ‘unexpected’ response – turning the other cheek; handing over your coat; walking the extra mile. What I mean by ‘unexpected’ is that the person doing the wrong would not expect the person they have wronged to respond in such an unusual manner. Can you imagine how the Christian life would speak to others if we didn’t seek to defend ourselves at every offence? Jesus knew the power of this. Think of how he stood before Pilate:
But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge – to the great amazement of the governor. Matthew 27:14
Notice that it says that Pilate was amazed. It wasn’t that Jesus couldn’t defend himself, rather that he knew the power of not defending himself.
Jesus’ final comments in this section speak of generosity to those in need. Of course we must be discerning about those things we do support. We all know how many requests we receive in the post, or e-mails we receive asking us to support a particular charity or cause. It would be impossible to support every cause that asked for our support. Jesus isn’t saying support everything, but to have such generosity of heart that is willing to give sacrifically when required.
[Archives – click on the links at the side of the WordPress webpage]