But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. (Matthew 5:39-42)
I know well enough that I am not the only one who takes Christ’s Words and tests the most extreme limit. My Lord, how can I turn the other cheek when someone is threatening my children? My Lord, how can I go the extra mile for someone who has intentionally caused me pain? My Lord, how can I give my jacket to someone who refuses to do anything for themselves? This can be a really convenient way to minimize our responsibility to the Word and replace His will with ours, build our own righteousness if you prefer. Full disclosure, we will probably live more peaceful lives if we obey under all circumstances.
Yet, I think our sophistry leads us to a poor understanding of Christ’s point in these teachings. For most of us reading this, the reality is as such: the things that irritate us each day are not that big of deal. Violence will not reach most of us, thanks be to God, so it is not really this threat that we seek to defend ourselves from. No it is more likely to be a perceived disrespect or somebody cutting us of on the drive to work that will touch off our anger and desire for retaliation. Most likely the person who needs us to go a mile is not the recidivist manipulator, no it is the cherished family member who is too shy, too respectful of your time, or cannot compensate. And as far as helping someone in need, they usually ask for very little (Seriously, just the other day I was asked for my half drank cup of coffee).
This is where our minds deceive. Christ is asking us to not concern our hearts with the things that amount to nothing. He absolutely is asking us to pursue the path of graciousness and reconciliation. Perhaps simply waiting and smiling to the manager is the best course when Walmart does not have enough check outs open. Perhaps doing things for others regardless of their attitude is simply more peaceful. Maybe just maybe, our generosity is a reflection of ourselves not the beneficiary.
This is where our faith restores. Because it is His Spirit that will mold us in the understanding that very few people intend to disrespect us and when they do it is a reflection of the weakness in them and not in us. It is His Spirit that leads us to see a need and fill it expecting nothing in return. It is His Spirit that moves compassion in our hearts.