38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a] 39 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. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Radical. Crazy. Delusional even. That’s how I first tend to think of this teaching of Jesus. What does Jesus mean for me to take away from what He’s saying here?
Jesus appears to be speaking to what we are to do with those who have it in for us – who want to take our shirts, eyes and livelihoods, for whatever sinister reasons. Jesus seems to say – the response I want you to take is this: give them your other cheek, your other eye, your coat as well! Is this possible to live out, I think to myself? And then I think of Martin Luther King Jnr, and the practice of nonviolent protest. In the face of serious violence against the African American people, Martin Luther King Jnr led a movement that refused to react violently to the violence done against them. It was costly indeed, but unjust laws were being changed as the movement got into full swing.
Left to my own devices, this is impossible teaching to live out. I need a change of heart to even begin to understand this, let alone live it. But this is the way with Jesus. Instead of my natural, default reactions, Jesus wants to empower response to violence and injustice in the world that is radically generous and crazy in kindness!
Lord, help me understand this teaching more, and live it out – especially in the places where it’s easiest to react defensively rather than give generously!
Written by Ps. Rob Waugh