“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 5:13-16 (NIV)
We continue on this week with Jesus’ sermon on the mount, but we’ve skipped on a couple of sections from last week’s. And I think this week, the passage could be so applicable to the Flames, and lots of other situations in life, that we are at danger of reading it for its surface-level value, and not bothering to delve any deeper and ask the bigger questions.
See on the surface, this passage is pretty straightforward. The parts that we have skipped since last week (on murder, adultery, divorce, oaths), all have a thematic link with today’s passage; and that is that Jesus has come to fulfil the Law. Jesus talks about this in 5:17-20 where he says that “I have not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfil them”. By the Law, Jesus is referring to the set of commands and instructions for living that God gave to the Israelites in the Old Testament, so that all of the nations around Israel could see that they lived differently; that there was something special about them – they were God’s chosen people. All of these thematically tied passages start with Jesus saying this phrase “you have heard that it was said…” and afterwards he would quote a piece of Old Testament Law. And so in today’s passage, Jesus quotes Old Testament law form Exodus 21:24 that says ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ This is part of a command given to the Israelites to ensure that people who had been wronged received justice and those who wronged received just punishment; no more and no less for either party. And yet Jesus seems to be disagreeing with this? Why?
Well I think this is where it is helpful to know that this has the underlying theme of Jesus fulfilling the Law, because what Jesus is saying here is exactly what Jesus is going to do in dying for us on the cross. Jesus is going to show us what it looks like to be continually rejected, and yet still love people. He is going to model what this looks like when he is driven out of towns, or scorned or crucified, and yet still looks to enter into a relationship with his perpetrators. Jesus does this with us, whether christian or non christian, when we continually decide in our every day lives that despite seeing that this world is broken, and that Jesus might be the solution, we decide that we do not want to know him or acknowledge him; that we know best. When we have rejected Jesus in our lives, he has turned the other cheek. When we have asked of Jesus, he hasn’t just given his shirt to us or walked with us one mile, he has given us his coat, gone 2 miles, and died on the cross as his ultimate, sacrificial gift. And why? Because he looks past what people have done to him, what we are doing to him, and sees individuals who are needing of God’s love which he can show to them.
Flames, that’s why we need to keep turning the other cheek on the football field. That’s why we need to be sacrificial in the love we show to people – not just going one mile, but two miles. That’s why we need to be generous in our forgiveness, not just handing over our shirt to someone doing us wrong, but our coat as well. Because we are charged to show God’s love to people in our actions, not seeking immediate justice for ourselves – eye for eye, but instead taking the opportunity to be distinct and show God’s love. We have these opportunities today during the game, with our team mates, with our friends, our housemates, our church, our colleagues, our family, with the guy who pushes in in traffic, with the sassy shop attendee, with random that causes you some inconvenience, with everyone. Because everyone needs God’s love, and Jesus is calling us to see that need first, and not our own needs for justice.
How do you react when someone annoys, angers, embarrasses, hurts or inconveniences you?
Joe Hockey, club chaplain
first published 26-5-2018