If Jesus wanted to counteract conventional thinking, he could have stopped a long time ago. Today’s words on the mountainside take his audience once again to the Law but only to remind them that it’s not enough. Exhibiting a righteousness above that of the Pharisees requires so much more than just getting even.
That’s what simple justice is—requiring a payment that is equal to the hurt or crime committed. There is an equality in it that brings a kind of satisfaction.
God requires more from us than simple justice.
Listen to how Jesus says it:
You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.Matthew 5:38-42 CSB
The one who takes pleasure in harming others doesn’t care about the justice system. Here, Jesus is calling a person who takes out an eye or tooth an evildoer. This is not an accidental injury but purposeful harm. These are people that will slap us out of anger, take our shirts right off our backs, and force us to do things that we aren’t prepared to endure.
Jesus says to yield willingly to those who seek to do evil.
Standing up for our rights has no value with people who don’t care about their fellow human beings. Peaceful noncompliance means nothing to those who are forcing compliance.
The only thing that speaks in the face of evil is goodness.
Those who choose to follow the way of Christ may end up slapped, naked, and abused. Allowing a person to slap us not once but twice may open the door to even further ridicule and abuse. Even if that person of evil doesn’t respond, another person watching his actions will. Even if no one changes as a result of your actions, God sees and rewards.
Jesus has already told us on the mountainside that those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness are blessed. When we are attacked because of Christ, our reward is great in heaven. He’s told us to rejoice because the prophets before us were persecuted just like this as well.
What the people on that mountain didn’t realize then was that the one who spoke these words would endure much more than a slap, a lost shirt, and a forced walk.
Jesus isn’t asking anything of us that he wasn’t already prepared to endure himself on our behalf.
While in the eyes of the world, his brutal death on the cross accomplished nothing but ridicule, we know that his willingness to go as a lamb to the slaughter was the price required to provide our salvation. Now he’s telling us that our willingness to endure insults and attacks in his name may be just the thing that turns a hardened heart into a broken heart before the Father.
Our willingness to give to the one who asks, especially if he doesn’t deserve it, may be the visual message of grace they need to see.
How do our actions open doors for witness? Good is easy to do when good is being done to us, but what about when nothing but evil surrounds us? Can we still do good for the sake of the name of Christ and to his glory?
Even as he shared it that day, Jesus knows that none of us can do this in and of ourselves. It’s always only by his…
Grace and Peace.