Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Thursday March 26, 2014 Matthew 5:38-42

“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 anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38-42 NIV)

We live in a culture that values self-preservation over self-sacrifice.  After all, what could we gain by giving our body, mind or heart for others?  When faced with going the extra mile for someone else, my deepest fear is what if my legs break down?  Wouldn't that be a burden on myself and on my walking companion?

Jesus wants us to focus on our walking companion.  In the words of the hymn, this is a real opportunity to "trust and obey."  By asking to go one mile with us, our companion offers us a golden opportunity.  Jesus lives in the sharing of a handshake, a hug, a listening ear or even eye contact.  He is the golden opportunity in our lives right now.  By being helped, we can be a help.  
--Tim Getz

1 comment:

Nikki Edleman said...

Walter Wink has written an amazing interpretation of this passage which rocked my world when I read it a couple years ago, and it continues to shake me today (in a good way). He applies a social interpretive lens to the situations Jesus describes, putting a 1st-century Roman-empire-ruled Palestine context to it. It goes something like this:

1) People in 1st century Palestine would only use their right hands to strike someone. (Left hands were for dirty work.) Visualize how someone can strike another person with their right hand on the person's right cheek.... It has to be a backslap. Now, who would be the slapper and the slappee in this scenario? A backslap would be dished out by a dominant person over a lesser person, e.g., a master slapping a slave, or a man slapping a woman. And this strike is meant to be derogatory. So, when Jesus says to turn the other cheek, what he is saying is that the oppressed person should get up off the ground, and LOOK THE SLAPPER IN THE FACE, forcing him to look at himself/herself in the eye. It is a challenge. A way to reclaim the dignity the attacker just tried to take away.

2) The 1st century Palestinian world was full of tenant farmers who could barely eek out an existence in the crushing taxation and horrible economics of the time period, and continually found themselves owing the landowners money/crops which they could not pay. The law allowed landowners to sue these poor tenant farmers for everything they owned, including the literal shirt off their back. When Jesus advocates giving the suing person your coat, along with your shirt, what he is saying is that the poor tenant farmer should STRIP DOWN NAKED IN THE COURTROOM as a demonstration of the injustice of the situation. In a Jewish context, it was shameful to VIEW someone else in their nakedness. So, imagine the scene this would have caused in the courtroom! Once again, Jesus is advocating the oppressed to reclaim their dignity by their own power.

3) A Roman soldier could conscript anyone walking by to carry his heavy gear one mile. There were apparently signposts along the roads that marked off the miles. Can you imagine the reaction of that soldier if, after going the 1 mile, he leans over to take back his gear and you say to him, "No, that's OK, I'll walk another mile with it." Once again, forcing the oppressor to see the humanity of the oppressed.

Wink goes on in the article to talk about Jesus as a proponent of nonviolent protest, and makes correlations to Gandhi and MLK, Jr. Powerful stuff, in my mind. I cannot read or hear about "turning the other cheek" in the same way since reading this interpretation, nor can I view Jesus in the same light as I did before.