Monday, June 10, 2013


[After back-tracking for the past couple articles, I’m picking up where I left off.  If you need to review the first lesson, find it here]

You've heard:
‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’

But I tell you:

Don’t resist an evil person - but:

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

This teaching reminds me of quarterbacks.  All football players get beat up pretty badly in a game – it’s a violent game.  But the quarterback is the one guy who never gets to pound someone else.  The quarterback takes a beating and must respond by keeping a cool head and get up from each sack to try to make a good play on the next down.  The quarterback seems to be a flashy position, he’s well paid and admired by all.  But really he is the ultimate servant-leader, who constantly gets pounded without being allowed to retaliate.  In fact, one reason the defense harasses the QB so much is to “get in his head,” and cause him to make mistakes.  Part of what makes a QB great – is his ability to perform a job under duress without losing his head.

In our previous lesson we observed that we must take a slap, go the extra mile, etc.  In this lesson we’ll talk about how to do that, and hopefully learn a little from quarterbacks.  If you don’t know the game of American football well, this is a good time for you to discuss this with a friend who does, and it’ll help the two of you to understand this difficult teaching of Jesus together. 


One of the important aspects of being a good QB (quarterback) is to have good footwork and be able to avoid being tackled.  Some get good at staying “in the pocket” (a small, temporarily safe place provided by his giant blockers).  Some QBs are also good at “scrambling,” in which one leaves the pocket and runs around evading tackle.  For all of them, they either receive the snap and drop back or they receive the snap in a “shotgun” formation – so that the QB puts some distance between him and his attackers.

In the previous article I wrote that we must be willing to receive a smack without retaliating.  But I did not mean (nor did Jesus) that we should put ourselves in harm’s way.  Jesus “scrambled” on several occasions.  When his hometown tried to murder him, he slipped through their grasp or in John 2.56 … he didn't “entrust himself” to men, because he knew what was in man. 
Bottom line: Getting beat up is sometimes a consequence, but it is NOT our job


The QB’s job is to throw or hand-off the ball.  Sometimes he has to stick with it and sacrifice himself, but he tries not to do that too much or it’ll shorten his career.  Sometimes Paul went into harm’s way, and other times he ran.  Our job is to: go, make disciples, baptize them and teach them to obey – our job is not to take beatings.  If we’re doing our job, we will be mistreated (usually not by pagans, but by religious people).  These attacks will tempt us to lose our focus.  If you pay close attention to Jesus or Paul, you’ll see that they never lost their focus.  Even when they were on trial, they didn't defend themselves.  Instead, they used their court appearance as an opportunity to do their job. 

Learn this: When you are harmed, learn to think of it as merely Satan’s attempt to get you off your game.  Never take the attack or harm personally … it’s just the bad guys doing their job.  And the person hurting you is almost always unaware of what he or she is doing.  (Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing” Luke 23.34)


The job of a quarterback is to move the ball down-field into the end zone.  To do this, he runs, hands off, and throws the ball.  He does that job best when he avoids being tackled.  But getting tackled cannot be his biggest fear!  Fear is usually what motivates us to retaliate.  We’re afraid of being hurt, of being made to look bad, or to let people think we’re weak.  It’s our “fight or flight response” that kicks in, and then we want to run and hide like cowards, or we want to lash out like fools.  Either way, it’s fear. 

Conquering fear is very difficult; and impossible for those who refuse to try.  Remember that Jesus many times said to the twelve: “Oh you of little faith.”  (For example, see Matthew 8.24-26 & 14.29-31) Faith is the victory that overcomes our fear.  But – and this is very important – faith is something that starts small, and must be built! 

Jesus told Peter he “would” (in the future) make him a fisher of men.  He didn't get the great commission to go, make, baptize, teach – until the end of his time.  In between those two was the period of training … of growing the spiritual muscle of faith.  So when Jesus was rebuking them for having small faith, he was really encouraging them to grow more, not merely “yelling at them” for their flaws. 

In the same way, you will not be able to consistently “turn the other cheek” or “go the extra mile” when you first start out as a disciple.  You won’t be able, because you haven’t yet developed the muscle that helps you overcome fear, and so stay focused on your job.  So when you’re doing your three column thing on this … don’t be too hard on yourself.  Give yourself a challenge, and then work up to it.  Remember to give yourself time to grow.  But don’t just quit or re-write this teaching to permanently let you off the hook!  Grow, train, work and be accountable … and you’ll find it grows. 


Another issue with this teaching for many is pride.  Some people think they’re too good to “be taken advantage of.”  What can I say about pride?  In America we have been taught that there’s a “good kind of pride” and a bad kind.  This is not what the scriptures teach at all.  Never.  If pride is your issue, then replace it with humility.  This is also a “faith muscle” thing … you resolve it by “exercise, rest & nutrition,” as with our other problems.  Be patient with yourself!  Pride is a tough weed to kill. 

Think about our Quarterback, and you’ll see that there’s a big difference between pride and confidence.  He must be confident to perform, but pride will get him beaten up pretty badly on his way to also losing the game. 

Moses was the most humble man ever (Numbers 12.3).  But he didn't start out that way.  He was raised as Egyptian royalty, and had a better education than other Israelites, and at one time was one of the most important men on earth.  God took him through a series of trials, and Moses learned humility.  If pride is your struggle, then take action to replace it before it gets you in trouble.  Much better to “humble yourself” than to be humiliated – or worse yet: to die in your pride.


The Quarterback and the faithful disciple are (or should be) the strongest and toughest players on the field.  Others will be tackled, but not on every play.  Only a truly strong man can take abuse and not let it throw him off his game.  Retaliation or pay-back is a sure sign of weakness, fear and/or pride.  Train yourself to stop thinking of being hurt as a bad thing.  To use another sports metaphor, it has been said of cyclists in the Tour de France that the one who wins isn't the fastest, but the one who is able to endure the most pain.  The same may be said of disciples. Learn to train yourself to see your endurance, faith and humility as signs of strength.

Once again: If you understand the ability to turn the cheek, go the extra mile, etc. as strengths, then you know you need to “work out” in order to get stronger.  You must “go to the gym,” and work hard to develop these muscles:  
  1. Pray - Ask God to show you how to build this strength.  
  2. Ask a fellow disciple to join you in this quest for strength/faith.  Two or more of you together can help motivate and encourage each other. 
  3. Don't rationalize this teaching ... but also be patient when you fail.  Rationalization will let you off the hook in your own mind, but not with God.  Impatience with yourself while you grow will tempt you to quit.  Be wise with yourself - firm and gentle in just the right measure. 
  4. Make it a daily or weekly challenge and keep some kind of records to be sure you're making progress ... a journal or log or whatever works for you. 
  5. Finally: recognize injuries as such.  If the QB's leg is broken it's not "tough" to get back on the field - it's foolish.  If you get seriously injured ... set out of the game for a while and rehab - just make sure it's a temporary thing.    

Helping each other

To help your fellow disciples, review these lessons.  Remember that it’s not ok to retaliate – ever, and so don’t let them off the hook.  On the other hand, patiently help him or her grow into this strength! 

If you see someone who accepts a beating without even trying to get out of the way – help them learn that it’s OK to avoid it!  Just as Paul told slaves not to seek to be free or married people not to seek to be divorced (1 Corinthians 7) … he also appealed to Philemon to free Onesimus.  We aren't called to endure abuse – we are called to do a job!  If you know of a disciple in an abusive situation, advise her to endure it if there’s some hope of getting God’s job done – life is hard.  But if there’s no hope of progress in service to the Lord, then why stay and be taken out of the game?  That would be foolish, indeed.  And sadly, it’s very common. 

Your Response

How will you respond to Jesus’ challenge?  Will you simply re-write Jesus’ teaching so you don’t have to obey it?  Will you just write it off as impossible?  If so, you’re in good company with a zillion other “Christians.”   

Here’s my challenge to you: accept it, and work up to it.  Never quit trying to grow strong enough to obey this teaching with wisdom and strength.  It will be hard, but this is why Jesus says at the end of the SOM that the one who obeys Jesus’ teaching is the house on the rock that endures the storms of life and stands firm.  And as you develop that strength, you’ll also be inheriting the peace of God that exceeds comprehension.

“You shall remember all the way which Yahweh (your God) has led you in the wilderness … that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.  
He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you didn't know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of Yahweh.
Thus you are to know in your heart that Yahweh (your God) was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.  Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of Yahweh (your God), to walk in His ways and to fear Him.”
Deuteronomy 8:2-6


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