Today's Word of Encouragement
Friday, June 19, 2020
I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away (Matthew 5:39-42).
Again, at this point in the Sermon, Jesus is talking about Christian conduct. From 5:7 on, Jesus laid down the principles of Kingdom life. These are not principles Christians can practice in and of themselves; they can only be practiced in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a most important truth to know and understand.
Christians are not to resist evil. In the Greek wording, we are not to set ourselves against an evil person who is (actively) threatening our life or the lives of others. This principle, however, is not to be enforced too strictly. In other words, Jesus did not teach that we do nothing if family, or self, is being abused or killed. He did not mean for a father to sit by and see his family butchered without trying to defend or save them. Natural law, and all laws, human and divine, justify self-defense when life is threatened.
Jesus gave two examples to explain what he meant. Rather than apply this doctrine to extreme abuse or life threatening danger, Jesus confined it to matters of a non-life threatening type - to issues of comparatively trivial interest. He said in these instances it is better to accept the wrong or injustice than to fight or enact a lawsuit.
The first example refers to an insult, a ‘slap on the cheek’. Rather than retaliate in kind, we are to take it patiently and humbly, and ‘turn the other cheek’ - walk away. We may, however, speak to the insult, and insist that justice should be done, but we are not to fight fire with fire (see John 18:23).
The second example refers to a litigious person who is determined to take us to court over a matter other than conscience or life. Jesus said to yield to the person rather than to seek revenge by countersuit in the courts.
This is a tough doctrine of Jesus. No one wants to be ‘taken advantage of’, to ‘lay down and take it’, but again, Jesus applied this doctrine to matters that are non-life threatening or do not pertain to matters of conscience or faith. As always, Jesus is our example. Think back on the many times He was insulted, criticized, or condemned, and yet He did not retaliate. He may have, and did, speak to the issue, but He did not invoke Lex Talionis.
“Father, the application of the principles of Kingdom life are becoming more and more difficult to practice as Jesus progresses in His Sermon on the Mount. His words touch me right where I live, and it makes me uncomfortable because His words expose my attitudes and passions. Forgive me, Lord, when my heart harbors ill will toward those to try to take advantage of me. Remind me that I am to be a peace-maker; that I should extend grace and mercy, not personal justice. I want to be more like Jesus who loved others, though they abused Him. Amen.”