“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)
Everything within me wants to resist an evil person. Hearing these words from Jesus makes me think he is “rewarding bad behavior!” I want to scream, “How will that evil person ever learn to be good if I just let him practice his evil?” It turns out that Jesus is not talking to the evil person, rather he is talking to his disciple! Jesus is willing to leave the evil person in the hands of God – who is perfectly capable of rendering just judgment and executing fair punishment, if need be. But Jesus is very interested in teaching his disciple how to live in such a way that he or she never becomes the evil person! And that is why this is such a difficult teaching.
Here are some wise words from Stanley Hauerwas: “A people of truth is sure to have enemies. This makes Jesus’ command against retaliation-as well as his call for those who would follow him to love their enemies-all the more extraordinary. He does not promise is that if we turn the other cheek we will avoid being hit again. Non-retaliation is not a strategy to get what we want by other means. Rather, Jesus calls us to the practice of non-retaliation because that is the form that God’s care of us took in his cross.”
Peter picks up this theme from Jesus when he writes “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8-9) We have been called to follow the “Prince of peace.” He set the example for us in turning the other cheek, in giving his all to those who asked, and in going the extra mile. When we follow, we may have hurting cheeks, but we will also have a proud savior – and we will inherit his blessing! Keep following Jesus…
- Kenny Payne