This weekend, we looked at a very famous and misunderstood teaching of Jesus. He says this in Matthew 5:38-42 (NRSV)…
“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 an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.”
In this passage, Jesus is contrasting His calling for us with what was previously acceptable. He is raising the bar on what we are called to do as His followers. No longer is it okay to seek revenge and go “eye for eye.” We are not to resist an evildoer. But, what does this mean? Do we become doormats? Just keep taking it? Well, Jesus isn’t saying this either. Jesus is asking us to pursue a third way. And, He gives us some examples to help us understand what He means.
In these examples, Jesus shows us that we are not to respond with violence, but rather to respond creatively in seeking justice. That while we aren’t called to violently resist an evildoer, it doesn’t mean we don’t resist evil or pursue justice. By turning the other cheek, Jesus isn’t asking us to just let the person have another crack at us. Instead, He is encouraging us to challenge the person by standing up to them as an equal, a person and a human being, therefore forcing them to deal with you on that level. That’s what this teaching is about. And, we see a similar theme in the rest of the examples of Jesus.
Jesus wants creative resistance, not violent resistance.
We then unpacked this main point with a few ideas of how to follow it in real life. And, I reminded those in abusive situations that Jesus is not asking us to accept or stay in evil situations or relationships. Instead, His point is about how we respond to evil and abuse. That our calling is not to respond violently, but rather to respond creatively in our working for justice.
So, our challenge this week is to follow Jesus, and not respond to evil with evil.