Read: Matthew 5:38–42
You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you,…if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also;…and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Matthew 5:38 & 41
The teachings of Jesus are curious and demanding. Jesus seems to expect the impossible from us. Turn the other cheek? When someone harms us or tries to harm us, we are to offer ourselves up for more punishment? This is like the lie we told ourselves when we were young that it takes real courage to walk away from a fight. But we know better. Strong people don’t let themselves get pushed around. Successful people stand their ground. Proud people don’t back down from a fight. The idea that when struck we would just take it . . . is simply not the way to make it in the world. If someone forces us to go a mile, that means they are stronger than we are. The only way to regain our power is to refuse to bend to the demands of those who push us.
What Jesus knew and taught is that for relationships to change, for intractable situations to be resolved, for the cycle of anger, resentment, and violence to abate in our lives and our world, we have to be willing to do the unexpected. Meeting anger with love, meeting disappointment with hope, meeting judgment with mercy, holding back when we want to lash out, going the distance when we would rather give up—that is how the world changes. That is how we change.
What unexpected act can you perform this week that might bring about needed change?
Lord, I react so instinctively sometimes. I respond without thinking. I make gut decisions. I am more than willing to fight when challenged. I am part of a cycle of violence and careless living that keeps Your world in bondage. Somehow, I need to live differently, act differently, and respond differently if that cycle is ever to be broken. Help me to do the unexpected so that unhealthy patterns of living might change. In Jesus’ name, I pray. AMEN.