For many of us, this enigmatic passage, that we explain in this PODCAST, is coming at Just.The.Right.Time, given that Christmas is right around the corner.
I have talked to too many people already this month who have admitted to me that in one way or the other, despite what the carol says, Christmas is not “the most wonderful time of the year.”
This because, among other things, they are dreading having to get together with certain family members or “friends” who are, to put this as delicately as possible, difficult to deal with. Difficult to be with. Difficult to spend time with.
EGR-types of people. EGR? Ever hear of those?
Extra-Grace-Required-types of people.
Do you know anyone like that?
So this passage is indeed coming at just the right time.
At the same time, ironically, it’s an impossible passage. Impossible in that no one, NO ONE, can possibly take the words of this passage, as they appear here at face value, and apply them to our lives.
No one can. Because if we did, then it would mean that… say, for example… if someone likes your car better than theirs, according to this passage they only need to ask you for your car, and you would have to toss them the keys.
Or if they like your house better than their house or apartment, and ask you for your house, you would have to hand over the deed to them.
Or if someone jumps you in a parking lot and starts to pummel you, according to this passage you could not defend yourself. You just have to lay there and let them beat you to a bloody pulp.
Is that really what Jesus meant to suggest here in Matthew 5:38-42?
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.
OK, let me be honest with you. Taken at face value, there are some serious issues with this passage. A problematic passage to say the least.
First, because if we truly live this out…
Don’t resist an evil person… Give to him who asks you…
…If we (as the clichés go) turn the other cheek, go the extra mile…
If we do indeed let people knock us around, or give anyone anything of ours that they want, even more than they want, anytime they want it, then what we’re saying is that we are biblically obligated to passively submit to anyone’s abuses, everyone’s abuses, any where, at any time.
Can you even begin to imagine what the implications of that would be? Just try to imagine what would happen if word got out about those Christians over there, that you can take from them anything you want, anytime you want it. Money. Possessions. Property. It’s yours for the asking.
Is that really what Jesus was preaching here in Matthew 5:38-42?
Second, if that was indeed what Jesus was preaching here..
But I tell you not to resist an evil person.
…Then we have a clearcut contradiction of Scripture. Because James (Jesus’ brother) just as clearly wrote,
Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).
And Peter added his voice to James when he wrote…
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him (1 Peter 5:8-9).
And finally, just to add one more tantalizing layer of complication to this already complicated passage, not only is there an apparent contradiction between what Jesus preached and what James and Peter wrote, but we also have an apparent contradiction between Jesus’ own words and Jesus’ own actions.
Let me phrase this as a question: Did Jesus practice what He preached…
But I tell you not to resist an evil person.
…when Jesus did this to some evil people?
Jesus took some rope and made a whip. Then he chased everyone out of the temple, together with their sheep and cattle. He turned over the tables of the moneychangers and scattered their coins. Jesus said to the people who had been selling doves, “Get those doves out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a marketplace” (John 2:15-16).
Hmmm. Sounds a little like resistance to me…
OK, so what’s going on here?
One are just one CLICK away from finding out. Just in time for Christmas!
A truly marvelous way to live.
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