This piece is written by Steve Wiebe (after he was informed from a sermon he heard from Rob Bell).  Steve writes these thoughts.

Matthew 5:38-48
An Eye for an Eye

"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 someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."

Love for Enemies "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. "

Jesus is infamous for finding a 3rd way to face life... I'll explain: Most people, when they face the issues of life, they usually seek 1 of 2 options: 1. passivity, or 2. aggression.  We think that we either have to be the door mat or be the conqueror.  This time, however Jesus finds another way to face the issues of life, which includes a form of resistance. This resistance does not include anger or violence, but instead it includes a calculated approach to attacking the system.  

Israel is oppressed under Roman rule.  They live under a common, present experience of oppression and they hate it.  They are being taxed by Rome and people are being pushed around everywhere you go.  They desire to be free and hope for a day to come where a leader will rise amongst them to lead them against Rome.  Jesus however comes and leads creation into freedom, not through military might, but rather through acts of resistance.   Jesus says, “do not resist an evil person” and also says, “turn the other cheek.”  This is a new behavior that Jesus is encouraging.  Usually when someone hits you, you run or fight back.  They are trying to goad you into submission.  Jesus is saying don't make it easy for the person.  Confront them with what they are doing and make them commit.  Also give them the choice to turn from their behavior.

The part about going the extra mile is a reference to a rule that soldiers were supposed to follow.  They were allowed to force Jews to carry their things for them, but only for a mile.  If soldiers abuse the rules, what happens?  Pay gets docked.  Commanders get angry.  Soldiers get in trouble. By carrying the load the extra mile the power is shifted from the oppressor to the oppressed.  The oppressed regains control by determining how far the load will be carried.  The oppressed regains control by getting the soldier in trouble with his higher ups.  The oppressed regains control by being asked by the soldier to put the load back down before the oppressor gets in trouble.  The oppressed regains control by forcing the oppressor to think about what he is doing and giving him an opportunity to turn from their behavior.

The part about the cloak and the tunic deals with a financial oppression. In that time period, if someone came to you to ask for your cloak it is connected to a debt problem.  Typically there were two pieces of clothing people would wear: cloak and tunic.  "If someone asks for your cloak, give them your tunic as well" ... If you have given them both of these pieces of clothing, then you are stark naked.  In that time period, it has been said that the shame of nakedness is not cast upon the naked person, it is upon the person viewing the naked person.  If the person is thrown into a state of shame and guilt for the state they have put you in, then the power has shifted from the oppressor to the oppressed.  Jesus teachings in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount are not about being passive and letting others walk all over you.  They are about finding another way.  They are about shifting the power away from the oppressors to the oppressed.  It is all about undoing the evil that has been holding people in bondage.  Jesus wants us to resist, but not in hatred, or in anger.  Jesus wants us to find a third way.  His way. 

This brings us to prayer, which should always come first, so we can entrust our efforts to the power of the Holy Spirit instead of using our own cunning and ending up twisting things in the wrong direction.  Jesus does not teach this principal in the passages mentioned above.  This is where holistic reading of the Bible comes in.  Often we forget that we are serving a God who is at work.  It seems that we sometimes think that if we are going to get anything accomplished it must be done with our own imagination, our own power and determination, but that is not how God wants us to work with Him. He wants to show us other options that will reveal His presence and power to us and to the world.  Jesus is teaching resistance.  "We wage war, but not as the world wages war" (2Cor. 10:3).

Published in: on February 12, 2007 at 5:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

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