Thursday, December 11, 2008

SOTM 25: Headed Somewhere

38"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'[a] 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."

-Mat. 5:38-42

"Joe Versus The Volcano" is one of the greatest movies of all time. Joe (Tom Hanks) works in a basement office with bad lighting selling catalogues for prosthetic testicles. There's a little bit of Joe in all of us-- life seems to be headed nowhere. Everything we do feels like we are spinning our wheels. A spirituality of timeless truths only reinforces the dead-endness of life. Escapist spiritualities--those which provide a means to get out of the vicious circle of nothingness, fail to ring true because they force us to accept the notion that this world is really nothing but a big waste of time. But Jesus offers us a picture of a world that is neither to be reluctantly accepted nor to be escaped from. This is a world that is headed somewhere. It has its hiccups for sure, but God's plan will prevail. In this passage we see that God's plan for his cosmos is one of progression--from the barbaric to the civilized to the heavenly. "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" is an Old Testament teaching designed for a time when a world of tribal warfare was constantly fueled by escalating demands for revenge. The punishment should match the crime and put an end to it. This lies at the center of civilized justice. But with Jesus we see this to be but a first step toward the true end--a world that operates with peaceful harmony not when we demand equal treatment but when, like Jesus does himself, we treat even our enemies as our superiors. Jesus invites us to enter into this world even while we expectantly wait for him to fully bring it to fruition.


  • Kevin:
    I recall a wonderful sermon on this notion of giving more than what is being demanded of us. The scriptures do not translate well in this age. In Jesus day, it was fine for a "superior" to strike you on the right cheek...with the back of their own right hand. Turning the other cheek was inviting them to hit you again, with palm of the same hand, which was considered rude, even cruel. The idea of the tunic and carrying a load further than asked was to embarass the person making demands on you with your level of servitude. A Roman soldier, in Jesus day, could "legally" demand you carry his pack for 1 mile, but no further. Carrying the load an extra mile would have put the soldier in a predicament, as he knew someone could put him on report. In these cases, the persecuted and abused actually are in a position of power over the persecutor, as they now control how the persecutor is viewed. It is not a position of lowly servitude, but is (thru service and humility) stated quite loudly to all who see, that you are human, have rights, and are willing to make the choice to do more than is asked, to (as Romans 12 states) "heap coals of fire upon their heads". When Christians use these principles to make clear and highlight injustice (by risking their own persecution and being unjustly used) then, we are truly engaging and impacting our world for good, for Christ and ultimately for the Kingdom of God on earth.

    By Blogger mrheinrich, At March 24, 2009 at 6:07 PM  

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