“Revenge is sweet” the devil tells us. If someone cuts you off, it is certainly right for you to cut them off and give them a hard look and dirty hand gesture in the process. At least that is how we tend to think. But then Jesus stepped into the scene with these words: “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.”
Talk about upsetting the apple cart of our thinking, this does it to the core. It’s true the Jews of the time had taken the commands of God about giving eye for eye and tooth for tooth in a very different direction that God had intended. The law was meant as a limit on one’s response to another’s actions. If they hit you in the eye, your limit was hitting them back in the eye. It wasn’t intended to be a command that if someone hit you in the eye you were obligated to hit them back in theirs. It was meant to limit our reaction so that we didn’t say, “he hit me in my eye so I am hitting him in both eyes and his mouth.” But Jesus went much further than just correcting their understanding of the Old Law. He moved the whole discussion to the application of a principle of how we deal with others. Notice, Jesus discussion started with the plea for us not to resist an evil person. Bad, mean and ungodly people are going to act bad, mean and ungodly. It just goes with the territory. Just like liars, lie, cheaters cheat, gossips gossip and hurting people hurt others, so evil people do evil things. It is quite natural for us when we feel mistreated by others to mistreat them in return. Most of the time we aren’t quite satisfied with simply doing back to others what they did to us, we want to go one step further and do a little more to them so they know not to mistreat us again.
Jesus rejected the whole framework for this attitude. Notice the three applications he made on not resisting evil. First, if someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other to them also. This seems like such a strange command. Is he really telling us to never stand up to the bully who would push us and others around? Some have seen in this the challenge for a duel so that if one strikes us on one side to challenge us, rather than just accepting the challenge we are to turn and offer the other side as well, thus messing up the whole duel notion. One thing that stands out in Jesus actions is that the never stood by to allow someone else to be abused. When Mary anointed him for his bury and his own disciples, led by Judas, began to attack her actions as a waste that could have been sold and the money given to the poor, Jesus stopped them and said, “Leave her alone. She has done a good deed. Wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world what she has done will be told as a memorial. She did what she could.” It does say that if we see others mistreated, we must stand up for the one being abused. It would be a misapplication of this point to look at a situation where a terrorist or deranged person came into a school with weapons and began to shot and kill students to say we should simply turn the other cheek for him to shoot the other side. What would Jesus do? He might not protect himself, but he certainly would the innocent children. But in day to day life, we are often challenged by those around us. Instead of striking back with every accusation made against us, we should turn the other cheek and allow God to handle the revenge since his said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay says the Lord.”
His second point is that if someone wants to sue us in court to take our shirt just go ahead and hand them your coat as well. Things come and go. People are the more important aspects of life. God’s challenge to us is to be a people who are about sharing, helping others and going out of our way to do good to others. Are there limits to such willingness to help others? Are we simply to give to anyone that comes along asking for what we have? Paul told the Thessalonians to not give to one who was just lazy and wouldn’t work. They were refusing to live by the right standards of life so it would be wrong to just give to allow them to go on in their sinful behavior. In I Timothy 5:1-16 Paul laid out standards for the church in helping those who are hurting. He said, our first job was to teach families to take care of their own and that if one didn’t take care of their own family they become worse than unbelievers. He also laid out a plan to help those who were not able to help themselves but challenged those who could to meet their own needs. He then said if a widow or some Christian had widows in their family they should take care of them so that the church might be able to take care of those who had no ability to help themselves. Our nature should be that of being generous and helpful to others. But there are times when the most helpful thing one can do is not to be an enabler for one to continue bad behavior.
His third illustrations that if one forces us to go one mile we are to go two requires our understanding their situation at the time. Israel was under Roman rule. It was common for a Roman soldier to tell a person in such an occupied country to carry their load for a mile. The law was that one had to carry the burden the exact distance that was asked. But Jesus said, instead of measuring off exactly how far it is to go a mile and there dropping the load with a declaration I don’t have to carry this any more, be one who when compelled to go one mile, goes two. Overdo what you are required to do. Don’t try to get by on the bare limits of your actions. This is a challenge not to be one who is looking for their minimum daily requirements to do that and then stop. His challenge is to go the extra steps, take things further than what is required and see what blessings develop. This principle is one that if followed would be life changing for us. Imagine being a worker on the job who goes the extra mile and does more than what is required of you. Imagine being the person at home that goes the extra mile as a husband, wife, father or mother or even as a young person instead of doing only what is necessary and stopping. it would change all of our relationships a ton.
Jesus then concluded the discussion with “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” Again, this isn’t talking about giving away everything we have so that we can’t take care of our own family. It is talking about not being a stingy person who is always looking for the cheapest way out or how to get out of ever helping another person. Our heart should be devoted to helping those who are hurting in the best way we can. Remember, the ultimate help I can give to anyone in need is to provide the need, while sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. If we simply feed the hungry body and leave their soul in rebellion to God we haven’t really helped the person much.
Let’s all determine to be Second Milers in life. Let’s face it the world is filled with far too many people that are half-milers who won’t even do what is asked. There are tons of others that are first milers in that they do exactly what is required and nothing more. These are certainly better than the half-milers, but the real blessings in life come when we are Second Milers. We go beyond the mere limits on life to give to others what they need.