Summary: A look at one of Jesus more difficult teachings and why it's worth our obedience.
- Our first reaction to reading Jesus’ words here is likely to be disbelief. “Is He serious? You’ve got to be kidding me!”
- Which leads us to our first question. . .
What Was He Thinking? Is Jesus naïve, stupid, or insightful?
a. Is Jesus naïve?
- Maybe Jesus was in over head when giving advice on this difficult issue. Maybe Jesus thought with a little push we’d all join hands and sing “Kumbaya.” Perhaps He just didn’t understand how deep in our DNA the desire for revenge and justice is. Maybe He meant well – He was just naïve.
b. Is Jesus stupid?
- Maybe Jesus is like your friend who advised you to put all your money in Bears Sterns. Maybe Jesus just doesn’t know what He’s talking about and is dispensing ridiculous advice.
c. Is Jesus insightful?
- Obviously, this is the one that I think is true.
- But I’ve phrased it in this harsh way because I think it’s easy for us to read past this advice as being unrealistic or otherworldly. To do that, however, denies that Jesus was a practical person with wise advice. What Jesus says here is something that we need to dig into for wisdom.
- And the fact that it initially sounds ridiculous to us is probably more of a reflection on our thinking than it is on Jesus’.
- Why does this sound ridiculous to us?
Our Culture’s Cry: “I have my rights!”
- Often we’re more interested in demanding our rights than we are in doing what’s right.
- Although there are obvious great things that have come out of the pursuit of basic human rights within our culture, there can come with it an inordinate selfishness.
- When our rights are violated, we’re quick with a hue and cry demanding that our rights are preserved.
- While certainly there are times when claims of violated rights are legitimate, the excessive lawsuits in our country make it clear that we often take our demands to a ridiculous extreme.
- Recently on Facebook, someone posted under one of my friends’ posts about a political issue: “Christians should be offended. Christians should be offended about a lot of things. Our rights are being stripped away.”
- We as Christians have become just like our culture in demanding our rights.
Jesus’ Idea: Start your response with grace rather than revenge.
- Our initial response to being hurt or challenged is to get revenge. You don’t have to look any further than the endless cycle of violence in the Middle East to know that this is the default human response.
- Our first response is not to be a demand for justice and revenge.
- Verse 38 brings up the Old Testament law of “lex talionis.”
- This law became an engine for revenge, but it wasn’t intended that way. It was actually intended to stifle bloodlust and limitless revenge.
- The intention of the law was not “You must take an eye for an eye” but “You cannot take more than an eye for an eye.” This law that was intended to prevent or limit retaliatory revenge was being used to justify its excesses.
- Remember that throughout much of Israelite history, they were basically living without a police force or much government. Justice was handled by individuals.
- We need to think more about our impact than our rights.
- Is my larger concern how I can show God’s love or how I can preserve my rights?
- Let’s look at the four examples Jesus uses and what that might translate to in our everyday lives.
a. “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
- This is not about a physical assault, but about an insult.
- If a right-handed person hits someone on the right cheek, that’s a slap with the back of their hand, not a hit with a fist. Further, if someone hits you with a fist in a fight, they’re generally not going to wait on an invitation to throw a second punch – they’re going to start wailing on you.
- So this has more to do with someone insulting you or injuring your dignity than it is about getting beat up.
- What would be an everyday example of this?
- You take great pride in your work in the office. In a staff meeting, a co-worker trashes what you’ve done on a particular project. Do you respond with: “You’ve got a lot of room to criticize anyone after being the one who lost the Anderson account?” (i.e. hit back) or “Is there any other part of my work that you want to criticize?” (i.e. offer the other cheek).