THE WORDS OF JESUS
Creative, Causative, Prophetic, Instructional – Part 15
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”
The Words of Jesus, Matthew 5:38-42.
Have you heard the term ‘counter-cultural’? I have heard it used to describe the attitude, actions and behavior of Jesus and His followers. But I believe it falls woefully short in its descriptive value, and is even more inadequate when applied to Jesus’ mission and intention.
This term, which came about in the mid-to-late 20th century, (around 1980), and it may be better used to describe many Christians of the postmodern world. Postmodern is a word used to describe major changes in the underlying ways people think — especially the way people view truth and reality.
Postmodernity, as discussed by Pastor Steve Cornell, founding and senior Pastor of Millersville Bible Church, Millersville, Pennsylvania, is a worldview which refuses to allow any single defining source for truth and reality. The new emphasis is on difference, plurality and selective forms of tolerance.
Postmodern thinking is full of absurdities and inconsistencies. It is, for example, the worldview that says no worldview exists. It is an anti-theory that uses theoretical tools to neutralize all theories. It demands an imposed uniformity in an effort to resist uniformity. It employs propositional statements to negate truth based on propositional statements.
Don’t misunderstand; God is warmly welcomed in the postmodern world, as long as he doesn’t try to play God. As one has written, “Postmodernity returns value to faith and affirms the nurturing of our spiritual being as vital to humankind. Unfortunately, with the loss of truth, people will now seek faith without boundaries, categories, or definition. The old parameters of belief do not exist. As a result, people will be increasingly open to knowing God, but on their own terms”. (See Summit Ministries)
Jesus, during His ministry, was described by His detractors and even His family crazy, ‘having a demon’, a lawbreaker, a radical, a troublemaker, a fraud and more.
If Jesus is compared to the prevailing mores and social norms of the 21st century, His teaching, His methods and His ways may seem to be counter-cultural indeed, at least too the uniformed casual eye. But to the informed, Jesus is better described as ”the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”
Jesus, in these verses, begins to explain the law of retaliation or retribution in a 1st century contemporary terms, saying, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ I can only imagine the Pharisees, Sadducees and the scribes nodding in agreement at these words.
Then Jesus ‘drops the bombshell’ on , saying, “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. (that is, do not oppose, show resistance to, do not push back against or hold a contrary position against and evil person).
HOW CAN WE?
- But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
- And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
- And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
- Give to the one who begs from you,
- And do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”
This was beyond radical to the Jewish mind. It was blasphemous. It was beyond ridiculous; it was insanity on display. They might ask, ‘Where was the balance between right and wrong in that thinking?’; ‘How could social order be maintained with such foolish thinking?’; Let evil thieves, evil and overbearing people have unrestrained rule over the good people?’
The greatest mistake the 1st century world made in response to Jesus’ teaching, and the greatest misunderstanding in our day, is they thought Jesus was talking to everyone and anyone. Although anyone and everyone would benefit from practicing what Jesus is teaching, This was not the case. Jesus was talking solely to His disciples and to those who would be His disciples, about His mission and His calling. He said, “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:38) Jesus goes on to say, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” (John 5:30)
His mission was not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned. But whoever does not believe in Him is condemned because he does not believe in Jesus. (John 3:17).
In fact, “Then the disciples came and said to Jesus and asked, “Why do you speak to others in parables?” And he answered them, “To you, it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them, it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:
“‘“You will indeed hear, but never understand,
and you will indeed see, but never perceive.”
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears, they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’
But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. – The Words of Jesus, Matthew 10:10-17.
DESTINATION – THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
Jesus warns us that another of the greatest obstacles lying in wait to entangle you and keep you from the Kingdom of Heaven is the need for retaliation, vengeance or neglect. From the moment that you involve yourself with evil or selfishness, you find yourself snared and held captive, unable to take even one more step toward or within the Kingdom of God.
Jesus is saying to go on your way, do not ‘resist’ an evil person; in other words, ‘do not entangle yourself’ with the demands of evil. Follow Jesus, do not be distracted, do what is necessary to stay focused on Him and His calling to you. Bypass evil that so easily entangles. Your destination is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Your Brother and Friend,
“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
NEXT: THE WORDS OF JESUS – What Are You To Do With Them? Part 16, Love your enemies.
PREVIOUS: THE WORDS OF JESUS – What Are You To Do With Them? Part , 14 , Oaths – you shall not swear falsely.