A small excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus brings up a section of the law which he is about overturn on his own authority. The Mosaic system of justice was very much eye for an eye. The Jewish society was run by a law of retribution, not by individuals but by judges and society as a whole.
But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. Some of the most difficult teaching of Jesus. We know He is about grace and mercy, but we still get uncomfortable about passages like this. Everything in our human nature cries out for retaliation when someone does us wrong. But, if we follow Christ, we are not to seek this justice for ourselves. Jesus actually modeled this during his arrest scene – “When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?”” John 18:22-23 ESV. This is about meekness and gentleness, not about literally offering your other cheek to be struck as well. When He was struck by the officer, Jesus did not fight back or justify himself He did not seek retribution as the ancient laws said he had a right to. He also did not literally go out of his way to get punched in the other cheek, but remained dignified under duress, and was willing to take another blow rather than return violence with violence.
And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. This refers to Exodus 22, the tunic is the inner coat. It was outlawed in Exodus to take outer, warmer coat as payment for a debt. Clearly the point here continues the theme that we must repay evil with good, if someone is so materialistic and into taking our “things,” well then give them our “things.”
And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. The first part refers to laws of the time where the military could, on the spot, draft you into immediate service and force to carry their gear for a mile, actually provide horse and carriage if required, as well give personal attendance to their needs. This was often a great inconvenience, and what Jesus tells us here is that we should be ready to submit to unreasonable demands of just about any kind, rather than fight their unreasonable demands and fall into all the personal evils that fall from demanding our own rights. The second part here is a call to be overly generous with those around us who come to us with needs which we DO have the ability to fill. We are to be generous with those who ask us for help, even when it is not easy or convenient for us to do so. When we’d rather just stay home, watch tv, and relax. Especially when we don’t feel like it. Remember, following Christ means giving up our lives as we knew them – “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.”
Luke 17:33 ESV
““You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”
Matthew 5:38-42 ESV
Matthew 5:38-42 ESV