THE THIRD WAY
Holy God, Your mercies are new every morning and Your faithfulness is astounding. How great You are!
Read MATTHEW 5:38-48
Eye for Eye
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Love for Enemies
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[b] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Ask for clear vision of the path Jesus asks us to take in situations of oppression and violence.
The context of the first century is again important to our understanding of Jesus’ teaching. This passage assumes a situation in which those who hold political power behave in ways that are unjust, oppressive, and violent. The followers of Jesus have already been warned to expect persecution and this text alludes to examples of this in phrases like ‘slaps you on the right cheek’ (v 39), ‘wants to… take your shirt’ (v 40) and ‘forces you to go one mile’ (v 41). This language, together with the reference to ‘enemies’ in verses 43 and 44, reflects the situation in which Roman authority in Galilee was maintained by military force and involved brutality and contempt for subject peoples. As Dick France says, the phrase ‘forces you to go’ is technical terminology describing ‘the Roman soldier’s practice of “commandeering” civilian labor in an occupied country’.1
While Jesus’ teaching involves the repudiation of the revolutionary violence that erupted in the Jewish wars, which resulted in the terrible destruction of the city of Jerusalem, it does not counsel indifference and inaction in such situations. Jesus instructs His disciples to take what has been called a ‘third way’ between armed resistance and passive indifference. It is a path that reflects the love and kindness of God, yet involves actions which, by their startling visual impact, expose the inhumanity of the oppressor and are intended to shame him into repentance. Christians living in difficult situations may be able to relate to this text from their own experience, and all believers should be prepared to take Jesus seriously when political power becomes corrupt and oppressive.
Remember brothers and sisters who live in contexts of oppression and injustice and ask that they may remain faithful to the way of Jesus.
Gracious Lord, a translation sums up this passage so well, “Live generously and gracious toward others, the way God lives toward you” (MSG). This is my prayer today.
1 RT France, Matthew, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, IVP, 1985, p127; note Matt 27:32, where the same word is used