Summary: How often do we practice what Jesus preached?
Practice What He Preached
First of all, let’s suppose that you’re a Jew walking down a street in Jerusalem, & you see some folks gathered over here talking politics. And they’re arguing about some changes Herod wants to make in the Welfare program. And you know some of them, so there you are, standing on the outskirts of their circle, listening to it all. Then someone turns to you & asks, "What do you think?" So you begin to express your opinion.
But as you talk you become aware of a man whose face is getting redder & becoming more & more angry as he listens to your comments. Finally, he steps up right in front of you & says, "That is the stupidest reasoning I’ve ever heard in my life." Then, BAM, he hits you.
What are you going to do? The Law says, "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." The Law entitles you to hit him back.
In the Old Testament, it was an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. This was not revenge, but it was justice. Revenge happens when we feel that justice was not served, so God in His wisdom said that an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth would make sure that people would not seek revenge.
When Jesus pointed out this well-known Law, He was quoting directly from three Old Testament passages: Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; and Deuteronomy 19:21. There the principle of exact justice was put forth. The justice required in this law is that the punishment must fit the crime precisely. In Exodus it speaks of "life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise." Additionally, in Leviticus it speaks of "fracture for fracture."
A farmer followed this principle of justice. He had been annoyed by people parking their car on the back side of his orchard, climbing the fence and eating his apples without asking permission. One day, as he walked up to them, one of them said, "We hope you don’t mind that we took a few of your apples." "No, not at all," said the farmer, "and I hope you don’t mind that I took some of the air out of your tires."
It’s the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." And you’ve all heard the saying, “I don’t get mad, I get even.”
Retaliation has been the way of human beings since the beginning of time. This is how gangs work. You come on our turf, we come on yours. You mess with our women, we’re gonna mess with yours. You shoot one of us, we have to shoot one of yours. I’m sure you’ve driven enough to see one driver get cut off by another. Many times, right after giving that special salute, the driver who was cut off retaliates by “getting even”. People love the idea of an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. We think that this is justice. The only problem is that sooner or later the entire world will be blind and toothless.
But Jesus says, "Don’t retaliate. Instead, turn the other cheek, because I’m not talking about getting even. I’m talking about love.”
Our problem is we don’t see in this statement what Jesus wants us to see. We see somebody getting hit and we don’t see more because we are thinking about this in terms of 21st century culture. In the culture of Christ’s time, a backhanded slap was the greatest insult possible. As a matter of fact, it was twice as insulting as being slapped with the palm of the hand. It was very humiliating. So, if you turned the other cheek you were, in effect, saying, “you’re not going to humiliate me!”
Jesus goes on to say in verse 40, “and if anyone wants to sue you and take you coat, give your cloak as well.” The coat that He was talking about refers to the sack-like inner garment worn by men. It could be long-sleeved or short-sleeved, depending on the season, and reached from the shoulders to the knee, much like what we call long underwear. Even the poorest man owned more than a single tunic.
The cloak, on the other hand, was their outer garment. It cost much more than the coat and only wealthy men owned more than one. When traveling, men often slept under their cloaks. It was like a long poncho and served as both tent and bedroll. The cloak was such an important part of the Jews wardrobe that the law protected it. We are told in Exodus 22:26-27, “If you take your neighbor’s cloak as pawn, you shall restore it before the sun goes down; for it may be your neighbors only clothing to use as cover; in what else shall that person sleep?”