Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Take it – and Like it

You've heard:
‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’
But I tell you:
Don’t resist an evil person. 
Whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.  
If anyone wants to sue you & take your shirt, let him have your coat also.
Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.  
Give to him who asks of you,
- and -
Don’t turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.
Matthew 5.38-42

Jesus now gives his disciples a ridiculous task: allow yourself to be hurt, and just take it.  This teaching has to be one of Jesus’ most ignored.  You and I and everyone we know – even people who call themselves Christian – spend much of our lives trying to find a way around this teaching.  Shoot – it’s even ignored within “Christian” friendships, families and marriages!  How many husbands and wives refuse to allow their spouse to take advantage of them? 

We don’t mind giving, but this is allowing yourself to be harmed! 


Try as we might, this teaching could not be clearer.  Jesus didn’t say don’t resist a ‘good person,’ but he said not to resist an ‘evil person!’  We can’t ask who is our neighbor in this one – it’s pretty clear that we have to give, even to mean people.  We are instructed to allow violent people to strike us twice.  We are told to submit to bossy people who want us to do their bidding.    Disciples are commanded to give the shirt off their backs, and even their coat.  Followers of Jesus are supposed to deliberately “loan” money to bad credit risks.  How can we have the nerve to suggest that Jesus didn’t really mean what he said? 

Everyone I know tries to water-down this teaching just as badly as they want to insist that Jesus was clear in his teaching on divorce, just a few sentences earlier.  Why?  Because our culture and our selfishness trumps the word of God.  We may “have” to stay married, but we don’t “have” to let that person ever take advantage of us or walk on us, or boss us, or manipulate us, or strike us.  “Turn the other cheek” is a nice idea, except when it’s your actual face being smacked.  Then we want to water this down. 

Now let me offer you a challenge.  Actually try to do this – really.  Before you get to your group to do your three columns … do your own paraphrase of this teaching.  But don’t do a regular one, but try to see if you could write this any stronger than Jesus did.  See if you can close any loopholes left in Jesus’ original teaching.  I bet you can’t do it.  Jesus closed all loopholes in this teaching already.  There is no way to make our Lord’s teaching more clear: “Don’t resist an evil person.  Don’t resist – rather, let him order you to go an extra mile for him.  Let her mistreat you.


This teaching is also personal – it’s for the ears of the person who can hear it.  This isn't a message to your church, your friends or your enemies – it’s to you.  Will you listen and obey, or will you use this teaching to try to force others to be giving?  If you want to follow Jesus, then take this teaching personally and don’t worry about what others do.  I promise you, almost no one you know will ever obey this.  Obeying this teaching is a personal burden that you will almost certainly bear alone. 


Remember the words “justice” and “righteousness” mean the same thing in the Bible.  The word we often use is “fair.”  It’s unjust or unfair to let people hurt you and you can’t sue them or hit them back or demand repayment.  Nothing about it is fair.  Remember back to our lessons on forgiveness, grace and mercy?  That’s what this is.  The person who is truly forgiving a wrong is also absorbing the hurt.  I have to work to pay my bills.  When you borrow from me and then refuse to repay me … I just actually worked for you.  It’s not fair. 


This teaching is Jesus.  It was personal when they spit on Jesus and beat him and called him names.  It was not fair when we nailed him to the cross to pay for our sins.  And it is clear that Jesus allowed himself to be crucified for our lazy, selfish, unforgiving selves. 

Being a disciple of Jesus means taking up your own personal cross.  Sometimes a cross doesn't look like a cross.  Sometimes your cross will be to turn the other cheek when someone’s mean to you.  Sometimes it means being lonely because others ignore you.  Sometimes it means you’ll teach, even though no one is listening. 
  • We don’t help people because they ‘deserve’ it, we help them because they need it; just as God has helped us when we haven’t deserved it. 
  • We don’t love people because they’re lovable, we love people because they need it; just as God so loved the world that He gave His only son. 
  • We don’t sacrifice ourselves for others because they’re good, we do it because it can save them – because God gave us the ministry of reconciliation!  We obey this because “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” 

Please study this lesson, read these passages, pray and then prepare yourself to accept this personal challenge and ministry from God through Jesus.  

If you’re ready to accept the challenge, in the next lesson I’ll suggest ideas for how to do this.  But don’t let the apparent difficulty of the task move you to dilute this teaching!  Instead, see if it’s true.  Then we’ll learn how to actually do this successfully.  If you trust God – you must trust that He knows what’s best for you, His child. 

God demonstrates His love toward us, in that: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us
Much more then, having now been justified by his blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through him.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.  And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation!  Romans 5:8-11

The love of Christ controls us, having concluded that one died for all, therefore all died; and he died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for him who died and rose again on their behalf.  Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh…. 
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he’s a new creature…. 

All these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  2 Corinthians 5:14-19

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