Summary: This sermon deals with how we forgive others who mistreat us.
7th Epiphany 2011
Making forgiveness perfect.
For years we in the church have been challenged by the initials, “WWJD.” The initials stand for What Would Jesus Do? For the most part it is easy at times to follow these simple guidelines, but sometimes it goes totally contrary to human nature. Loving your enemies is great in theory but the practice is so much harder. Then the whole WWJD question must be understood in terms of Radical Love.
Too often we associate these actions with that of a wimp, someone who is too spineless to respond. Let’s take for example the incident Jesus is speaking of in this passage. Someone slaps your face, it’s an insult and you are supposed to be insulted, and walk away, what does offering your other cheek do? It’s says, “Hey I am not humiliated by you. Your insult to me is not going to cause me to lose the joy of my salvation”
Now who looks stupid, the guy who has had his face slapped or the guy who is doing the slapping, who humiliated who?
That one was fairly simple to understand, but the second one takes a bit more understanding. If someone sues you for your coat give them your shirt as well. In Jesus’ day, a coat was a way of guaranteeing a debt, if you could not pay it back then they would usually take your coat. In that time, the average person wore two layers of clothes, a coat and a long shirt. To bring this saying into today’s language, what is basically being said is don’t just give him your clothes give him your underwear too. Give him your underwear and watch their embarrassment. The reason for this sounding so strong is, nakedness is taboo in Jewish society. By Jewish tradition and Jewish law you might ask a man for His tunic, but never His cloak. And yet Christ is saying, even that which is protected by law, be ready to give up. Even that which you don’t want to give, give.
Now lets look at the go the second mile part. Roman soldiers had the legal right to pick on any one to carry their bags for a Roman mile, Jesus was saying, go the extra mile and watch that soldier fall over. Imagine the embarrassment upon his fellow soldier’s face when he tells them what happened and they don’t believe it, I mean people do not do that sort of thing. Think of how it might convert another person.
Do you remember Simon of Cyrene? He was the man who was forced to carry the cross of Christ. That was the only other time that this word which we translate as forced was used in the Bible. The Bible also mentions that he was the father of Alexander and Rufus. If you look carefully at the rest of the New Testament you will find that his two sons became leaders in the first century church. You better believe that this experience of being compelled into service made a difference in this man’s life.
Now you could obey the soldier one of two ways: the first would be with grudging acceptance, like the little boy who was told to stand in the corner and he sat there with his arms crossed and said "I may be sitting on the outside but I standing on the inside" you ever do that? I sure have.
Or you can cheerfully do your best. There are always two ways to do something, 1) doing it with the bare minimum and that’s it, or 2) do what you’re asked to do and more, graciously and cheerfully. But listen up, don’t wait until you are pressed into service by a Roman soldier type, because it probably won’t happen. But you will have all kinds of opportunity as you go through your daily walk.
The Christian shouldn’t be concerned with only doing what he likes to do instead he should only be concerned with being able to help, even when the demand is discourteous and unreasonable. And so Jesus has given us three guiding principles for our Christian life: 1) Christians shouldn’t resent or seek retaliation 2) The Christian shouldn’t stand on what we feel is our rights 3) The Christian shouldn’t be thinking of his right to do as he pleases instead he should be seeking to help, or go the second mile if you will.
Christ summed it all up in Matthew 5:44 (NIV) But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, as a matter of fact if you were reading in the New King James Version of the Bible it goes into even more depth because it says "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, But you ask, "how do I love people like that?"