Summary: Jesus has a third way to deal with violence other than fight or flight!
THE THIRD WAY
MAY 2, 2012
OSCEOLA, AR CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE
INTRO. It seems that our instinct when faced with violence is fight or flight. Those are the only two things we know how to do! Jesus, though, has a third way - nonviolent engagement. How does this work for him?
I. TURN THE OTHER CHEEK (6:29). There is a parallel passage in Matthew (5:39) that specifically says the right cheek. The ancient world of Jesus was very definitely right-handed. If you made a fist with your right hand and smacked them one, you would hit them on the left cheek. If you slapped them with your open right hand, you would also hit them on the left cheek. If you hit someone on the right cheek, you had to use your left hand in a fist. But then, the left hand was only used for unclean jobs. At Qumran, if you gestured with the left hand, you had to do penance for 10 days. Really, the only way to hit the right cheek with the right hand was with the back of the hand. What was going on was an insult, humiliation. You would backhand those who were inferior to you. Then why turn the other cheek? Because, if you do, it takes away from the other person the power to humiliate you. This was an example that the hearers of Jesus could understand. Shortly after Pilate became the ruler of Judea, he brought flags into Jerusalem that had the image of Caesar on them. The Jews saw this as idolatry, and protested there for five days and nights. On the sixth day, Pilate called the Jewish crowd into the stadium and told them to let it go at the point of the swords drawn by all of his soldiers that had the Jews surrounded. The Jews threw themselves on the ground and exposed their necks; they were ready to die! Pilate was astonished and ordered the flags taken out of town. What Jesus was doing was taking an event like that and saying that it needed to be a way of life.
II. GIVE THE UNDERGARMENT (6:29). Only someone who is very poor would have only a piece of clothing to give as collateral on a loan. The picture that Jesus is giving is, if someone takes you to the cleaners, then give your underclothes to them as well! Give it all! The debtor is left only with his body, and the shame is now on the collector. In the OT, we are told that the shame goes on the person who views or causes the nakedness of another person. Very few things take away the power of someone as much as being ridiculed. In Von Ryan’s Express, they do it by burning their clothes. If someone is humiliating you for the cause of Christ, take the humiliation to its furthest possible extent and you will declaw the enemy and drain him of his power.
III. GO THE SECOND MILE (6:30). In Matthew (5:41), Jesus makes it clear what he is talking about - if a Roman soldier forces you to carry his pack one mile, carry it two miles. The Romans limited their soldiers to demanding one mile from a person, but the Roman subjects hated it - one person compared it to death! Many soldiers would abuse the privilege; they had a pack that could way close to 100 pounds, and any help was welcome. However, soldiers could be punished for abuse, through loss of pay, less food, reduction of rank, dishonorable discharge, but most of all flogging. So what does Jesus say to do when getting dumped on? Instead of being forced to give what we don’t want to, he says we are to willingly give what we want to. Jim Elliott, missionary to South America, said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot use.” The one who is being forced to do something all of sudden begins to choose to do it! How is that for taking away the force of it, the must do into the choose to do?
CON. What kind of response can you give to violence? Chinese students were forbidden to protest against government policy. They put on paper masks of the communist leadership and carried signs like this: “Support Martial Law,” “Support Dictatorship,” and “Support Inflation.” We need to be willing to take such steps ourselves. What this is about is not avoiding conflict, but working our way through it. The way of Christ is the unexpected, the sudden, the surprising way. When we follow the way of Christ, when we avoid the violence of opposition to the way of God, we show our similarities to the love of Christ. How about you? Is it your way or the way of Christ?
Based on Engaging the Powers, Walter Wink, 175-93