Matthew

Matthew 5:38-42 – Turning the other cheek – going the 2nd mile

Matthew 5v38-42

 

Turning the other cheek – going the 2nd mile!

 

Introduction.

The modern western world in which we live is a strong defender of individuals’ rights!

Workers’ rights!

Patients’ rights!

Students’ rights!

Teachers’ rights! Etc………

 

The legal profession has flourished in this climate of defending the rights of individuals or groups.

The thing is that it is inevitable that your inalienable rights and my inalienable rights are inevitably going to conflict at some point.

Whether in family, business or between two nations when each party insists on their rights things begin to unravel.

 

Unless rights are balanced with responsibilities – unless there is give and take on both sides – trouble will follow. ILLUS.: There are those who live by the give and take rule – “You give and I take!”

 

However, is Jesus simply saying we must balance rights and responsibilities or is he saying much more than that?

 

  1. 1.     “You have heard … BUT I say …”

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ (NIV)

This well-known law is to be found in Exodus 21, Leviticus 24 and Deuteronomy 19.

Three things need to be remembered about this law:

a)     However prescriptive this law may have been it was also and probably, more importantly, restrictive. It was to prevent retaliation with interest.

ILLUS.: You accidentally cut off my brother’s finger  so I cut off two of your fingers, so you retaliate and cut off my brother’s hand so I then cut off your whole arm  etc… the result is blood feuds and tribal warfare that go on forever.

This law restricted such practices.

 

b)    When the whole law is read it becomes clear that others restitution was also possible. Monetary compensation.

 

c)     The law was given to the Jewish people as a nation. It was not designed to be executed by individuals bend on personal vendettas. It was for the judiciary!

 

By Jesus day some of these restrictions were overlooked and personal retaliation was pushed to the limits – bitterness, recriminations, revenge, malice, etc. were common place.

 

Jesus then responds to this situation with ringing authority..

39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. …

How are we to understand this statement?

 

a)     Is Jesus saying no one should ever resist evil people but simply give in and give them what they what?

There are those who have and do hold such a view. Tolstoy, for example, held that there should be no police, military or magistrates as they resist evil people.

However, such a position goes beyond what Jesus said ~ it says that no one can resist an evil person who is attacking a third party! So if I see someone being attacked in the street I must just watch? If I know someone is abusing a child I must not resist? NO!! I don’t for a minute believe that Jesus meant that. Such a position is untenable.

 

b)    Is Jesus saying that no Christian should resist evil directed at him and by extension therefore no Christian should be in the military or police or any other law enforcement agency?

Those who hold such a view acknowledge that God has given certain powers to the State [Romans 13] but Christians shouldn’t be involved. These would generally be committed pacifists!

 

  1. 2.     Four illustrations and a principle.

 

As with any text of scripture if we take it out of context and also fail to understand the background and idiom of language we are liable to misinterpretation.

So we must balance what Jesus says here with what he says elsewhere – and the Bible in general. If we don’t we end up distorting and misinterpreting what Jesus means.

 

ILLUS.: So to take Jesus point about giving to everyone who asks to a literalistic extreme. Am I to give to a beggar who preys on me for money to by alcohol or drugs ~ never to question, never to restrain his habit?

If I did I would soon have nothing to look after my family and be worse than a pagan … 1 Timothy 5:8 8 If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (NIV)

 

In these verse Jesus is not talking about being a police officer or a soldier or a magistrate RATHER he is talking about personal attitudes and action and personal self-sacrifice. This is the theme that runs all the way through the Sermon on the Mount and if we ignore that we distort Jesus’ meaning.

 

Jesus gives 4 illustrations:

a/ Be willing to sacrifice your right to personal dignity.

 

Matthew 5:39 If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (NIV)

Why the right cheek? Most people are right-handed so to be struck on the right cheek means it’s a backhand. It is an insulting slap – design to humiliate more than physically injure / hurt. This attitude of not retaliating to abuse is esp. truth when the reason is righteousness for the sake of God’s kingdom – [we saw this in 5v10-12] but it is not limited to attacks for righteousness.

ILLUS.: There is a story about an Irish preacher who used to be a boxer. At a heated argument after one of his meeting a man punched him. People wondered what he would do. He simply offered the man his other cheek – the man obliged and knocked him to the floor. The preacher stood up, “The Lord gave no further instructions!” Smack!

I don’t think that is what Jesus intended.

The principle is non-retaliation. Our natural response is, “I have my rights!” Smack back!

Jesus is our example of how to react ~ 1 Peter 2:23 23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (NIV)

This principle applies not just to physical insult ~ it is more often verbal but non-retaliation still applies … Proverbs 15:1  A gentle answer turns away wrath,

but a harsh word stirs up anger. (NIV)

 

b/ Be willing to sacrifice your right to personal security.

Matthew 5:40 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. (NIV)

 

This is about lawsuits and the security of our possessions. The tunic would be our suit of clothes and the cloak would be our overcoat. The outer coat was recognised in Jewish Law as someone’s inalienable possession. Exodus 22:26-27 26 If you take your neighbour’s cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, 27 because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.

It may seem unlikely that people would go to court over a change of clothes – but the principle is “even those things which we regard as our rights by law we must be prepared to abandon.

Jesus is really saying, “It is better to lose your cloak than to irreversibly sever a relationship!”

This is true of all relationships but esp. within the body of Christ ~ among the people of God. 1 Corinthians 6:7-9

7 The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 8 Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.

9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: (NIV)

 

c / Be willing to sacrifice your right to personal privacy.

Matthew 5:41 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. (NIV)

Jesus is speaking to a group of people who are completely at the mercy of the Roman military. An ordinary Roman soldier could legally commandeer any civilian, for example, to carry his luggage one-mile.

In the account of Jesus crucifixion Simon of Cyrene was commandeered to carry Jesus cross – he did offer nor did he have a choice!

Jesus is saying, “Instead of doing it grudgingly and irritably rather do it willing and cheerfully and offer to carry it further.”

We don’t like having our privacy invaded ~ esp. in this country, hence the inherent opposition to ID cards. We see it as a violation of our privacy and our human rights.

What Jesus is really say is, “You don’t really have any rights!”

 

d / Be willing to sacrifice your right to personal property.

Matthew 5:42 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (NIV)

This last illustration Jesus gives is telling us to be cheerful lenders and givers. The issue is not that we give to every Tom, Dick or Harry who wishes to bleed us dry. NO, what Jesus will not tolerant is a mercenary, penny-pinching, tight-fisted attitude. Don’t always be asking yourself, ‘What’s in it for me?’”

In other words be generous, magnanimous ~ Think of what God has done for us, God’s attitude to us while we were still his enemies.  Ephesians 1:7-8 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (NIV)

1 John 3:1  How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (NIV)

 

What Jesus is calling to do is show the same attitudes and actions toward others that he has shown towards us.

 

Jesus emphasises one principle:

As follows of Christ the attitude of rights, restitution, retaliation and revenge are superseded by an attitude of redemption, love, mercy and grace ~ in other words the way of the cross!

Will we suffer abuse and have our rights infringed?

OF COURSE!

Either because of our faith or simply because that’s life!

 

Jesus in this passage is not saying there shouldn’t be justice or restitution. BUT it is not our place to take the law into our own hands.

 

On the contrary we are to act redemptively ~ to turn these difficult situations which may be impositions or insults into opportunities to do good in return.

 

I don’t know about you but I find this very difficult to swallow! You see, when someone hurts me I want to hurt them back or if I can’t I want to ignore them or secretly I wish them ill.

 

BUT the way of the cross doesn’t allow me do that.

Romans 12:14  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Paul -1 Corinthians 4:12-13 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly.

 

Our natural reaction is to want to force the other person to do what is right – i.e. to uphold what I believe to be my rights.

BUT God calls me to ‘turn the other cheek’ – ‘to go the second mile’. To demonstrate self-control, self-denial and self-sacrifice.

The normal Christian, Christlike, life is a putting aside of accepted secular behaviour and replacing it with behaviour that is enlivened and inspired by the Holy Spirit.

In other words to respond like Jesus.

1 Peter 2:23-24 23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness;

He is calling us to live righteously: –

–         Instead of reaction blindly to provocation to act lovingly.

–         When I say no to my rights and ‘yes’ to God I am responding like Jesus “Father, not my will but your be done”.

 

What happens when I respond instead of react?

I begin to build / repair bridges instead of tearing them down and destroying them. EASY? Never!!

 

BUT remember God has given us an example in Christ and the power of his Holy Spirit to enable us to live this kind of life!

 

So our prayer should be this:-

“O fill me, Saviour, Jesus with your love!

Renew me with your Spirit from above…

            … the words from the 4th verse of our closing hymn

(Prasie #727: Beyond all knowledge {It passeth knowledge})

 

Turning the other cheek – going the 2nd mile!

 

Matthew 5v38-42

 

1.       “You have heard … but I say”

 

 

“An eye for an eye”

 

–  more restrictive than prescriptive

–  provision was made for compensation

–  a law for the authorities not the

individual

 

 

 

“Don’t resist the evil person”

 

Is Jesus simply saying …

– No restraints on evil people generally?

– Christians shouldn’t be involved in

restraining evil people?

 

 

 2.       Four illustrations and a principle

 

–  Be willing to sacrifice your right to

personal dignity.

If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. v39

 

–  Be willing to sacrifice your right to

personal security.

And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  v40

 

– Be willing to sacrifice your right to

personal privacy.

If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. v41

– Be willing to sacrifice your right to

personal property.

Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.  v42

 

Jesus emphasises one principle:

As follows of Christ the desire for rights, restitution, retaliation and revenge are superseded by an attitude of redemption, love, mercy and grace ~ the way of the cross! ~  (1 Peter2v23)

 

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