Thursday, May 31, 2012

Being Weird as a Witnessing Method - Matthew 5:38-41

38 "You have heard that it was said, 'AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.'

39 But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheeck, turn the other to him also.

40 If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.

41 Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.

42 Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him hwo wants to borrow from you."

This passage starts with Jesus referring to an Old Testament law found in Exodus 21:24.  The thing is, this refers to legal justice - the punishment of criminals - but we as humans tend to apply it to our personal lives, as well.  We want life to be fair - if someone hurts us, we want to hurt them back.  But legal justice and personal justice are two separate spheres, and as Christians, we are called to reflect the character of the grace-granting God we serve.  That is the main point to focus on here - we are called to give up our right to "fair" to point others to our merciful God.
Now, let's look at each of the specific examples of how to do so individually.

I've heard some people say that this line on turning your other cheek to a person slapping you is a Biblical injunction against self-defense from a physical attack.  Personally, I believe that is a horrendously incorrect interpretation.  Consider that in multiple places, the Bible gives people the right to defend themselves - for example, Jesus instructed His disciples to buy weapons since they would be in great danger soon (Luke 22:36), and husbands are instructed to be willing to die to protect their wives (Ephesians 5:25-28).
But perhaps the biggest peice of evidence that this is not referring to self-defense is that in Jewish culture at the time, a slap to the face was a form of great insult --- and that is what I think is key here.  When we are insulted, our first reaction is to insult the other person back.  But Jesus is saying not to do this, to let them insult us.  This concept pops up a lot in Scripture:

1 Peter 3:8-9 "To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in your spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.

Being nice to those who are mean to us makes us stand out as really weird (see Romans 12:20)...which will make people curious and start to wonder why we react the way we do...which will give us an opportunity to point them to the Lord.

Now, what's with that bit about giving someone your clothes?  This is if they're suing you for them.  In other words, if you've wronged someone, don't just make it right...really make it right.

Again, let's look at human nature - we don't like to apologize, and when we actually have to physically compensate someone for damage we've done, we try to get away with as little as possible. 

Jesus is saying here that we should instead go over-the-top to make it right.  Once again, people are going to think it's weird how nicely we reacted, and their curiosity may lead them to ask you why - Christ.

The going a mile bit seems a bit random at first, but in light of world history, it makes complete sense.  In Jesus's day, Roman soldiers had the legal right to order certain categories of civilians to help them carry something for up to one mile.

So what Jesus is saying is, if someone has a right to demand your service in some way, go beyond what is required and serve them even more.  Again, the purpose of this is to make them curious about why you're willing to do this so you can point them to God.

What do you think?
What ways can you think of to be "weird" (that is, going against selfish human nature) to point others to God?

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