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Matthew 5/ 38-42

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Loyal
38“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39But 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. 40And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic,h let him have your cloak as well. 41And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.42Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.


I have struggled with the meaning of this scripture and would love to here what others think of it. At first glance it looks like we are to be door mats to all that is evil in this world.

Can someone shed some light on it for me.

thanks
 
Loyal
I think "being a door mat" is an immature way to look at it.
The world is already fighting with itself, arguing with each other, hating each other... doing whatever it takes "to get even".
If "getting even" is our mindset, we are of the wrong mindset. Can we be mature enough.. not to fight back? Not to argue just because we are offended?
First do you trust God to take care of these things? Or do you feel like you need to take care of it yourself?
Second, does what someone else thinks about you, or says about you affect your reactions? Can I really control your attitude by what I do to you?
This isn't about self-defense. God is OK if someone physically attacks you and yu defend yourself. But if someone insults you or slanders you are you mature enough
to rise above it. Or does that situation define who you are and how you act?
 
Active
This isn't about self-defense. God is OK if someone physically attacks you and yu defend yourself. But if someone insults you or slanders you are you mature enough to rise above it. Or does that situation define who you are and how you act?
I don't see how you can reconcile this interpretation with the text. Jesus' examples are specifically about self-defense situations: "Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."

Looking ahead to the rest of Jesus' life and to the lives of the apostles, I would content that they acted on these words at face value.

Walter Wink has a brilliant interpretation of these verses. It's worth looking into. His understanding is that these verses are examples of non-violent subversion of evil. But on balance, I think Jesus is simply telling us not to use force.

As to the question of being a doormat - read about Jesus and Peter and Stephen and Paul. None of them used force (except Peter in a rash moment at Jesus' arrest) but who would dare to call any of them passive or submissive?
 
Active
Wink's summary of Jesus' 'third way' between submission and forceful resistance
  • Seize the moral initiative
  • Assert your own humanity and dignity as a person
  • Meet force with ridicule or humor
  • Break the cycle of humiliation
  • Refuse to submit or to accept the inferior position
  • Expose the injustice of the system
  • Take control of the power dynamic
  • Shame the oppressor into repentance
  • Stand your ground
  • Make the Powers make decisions for which they are not prepared
  • Recognize your own power
  • Be willing to suffer rather than retaliate
  • Force the oppressor to see you in a new light
  • Deprive the oppressor of a situation where a show of force is effective
  • Be willing to undergo the penalty of breaking unjust laws
  • Die to fear of the old order and its rules
  • Find a creative alternative to violence
 
Active
[for me anyway] The Lord Jesus Christ knows exactly what He is saying, and what He says is exactly what He means, and as for us, we have no right to speak over Him, as though we are something; but we ought to rather listen only and exclusively to Him, and submit to and rely upon what He tells us, and nothing wavering. Many have made this what Christ tells us less than what He says by reason and rational, such as saying He means to give to those in need (for example) which is reasonable sounding, yet it diminishes what Christ says: for if Christ wants us to give to some and not to others, then He would have said so; He is not speaking beside Himself, He knows exactly what He says; and as He says, that we should give to everyone that asks; and we are supposed to just submit to what He says, and keep our foot in our mouth, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools. Many say to what Christ tells us to do, that we are only but mere flesh and blood, and such things are to much to bear for us: to that I would say that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God". Instead of us trying to resist what Christ tells us, we ought to rather bow down our heart and mind to what He says, and disown our own will, and make the sincere effort to do the things which He says, and that's all.
 
Active
I believe what Jesus was meaning here is that we should not return in kind with the same actions when a evil person is coming against us. Vengeance in paying back evil for evil belongs to the Lord alone. Jesus tells give us how we are to respond when a evil person comes against us.....

Luke 6:27 "But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
Luke 6:28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
Luke 6:29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.

This does not mean we are to just left people strike us in the face and smile while that is happening, we should always "defend" our self's, and our families when physical danger is approaching, we just do not repay evil with more evil in trying to hurt them in return.

Rom 12:17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.
Rom 12:18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
Rom 12:19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, "I will take revenge; I will pay them back," says the LORD. (NLT)
 
Loyal
Top Poster Of Month
38“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39But 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. 40And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic,h let him have your cloak as well. 41And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.42Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.


I have struggled with the meaning of this scripture and would love to here what others think of it. At first glance it looks like we are to be door mats to all that is evil in this world.

Can someone shed some light on it for me.

thanks
Finish reading the chapter....It says how to handle these things. And the why of it.
 
Administrator
Staff Member
I don't see how you can reconcile this interpretation with the text. Jesus' examples are specifically about self-defense situations: "Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."

Looking ahead to the rest of Jesus' life and to the lives of the apostles, I would content that they acted on these words at face value.

Walter Wink has a brilliant interpretation of these verses. It's worth looking into. His understanding is that these verses are examples of non-violent subversion of evil. But on balance, I think Jesus is simply telling us not to use force.

As to the question of being a doormat - read about Jesus and Peter and Stephen and Paul. None of them used force (except Peter in a rash moment at Jesus' arrest) but who would dare to call any of them passive or submissive?
So you're believing that if someone physically attacks you, just stand there and new assaulted? Until the attacker stops eventually?

What about when God told Israel to build a wall or annihilate the Canaanites? What about when God honored Samson's last prayer and he killed EVERYONE in the palace? Three examples to start.

What about an attacker/intruder who breaks into your home and attacks your wife and children? Just turn the other cheek?
 
Administrator
Staff Member
Bible Study Notes

5:38 An eye for an eye. The original intent of Ex. 21:24, Lev. 24:20, and Deut. 19:21 is that punishment should be equitable and should fit the crime. These limitations prohibited exacting a greater vengeance (such as Lamech boasted in Gen. 4:23) or having different penalties for different social classes. Jesus contradicted those who saw in this principle grounds for personal vengeance.

5:39 Do not resist. In context this means “do not seek restitution in court.” The slap on the right cheek is a backhanded one—an insult as well as injury. Jesus’ remarks may refer back to the words of the Servant of the Lord in Is. 50:6.

5:41 if anyone forces you. The possibility of a Roman soldier coercing a person to serve as a guide or burden carrier was real. Even if compelled by force to do something for someone, one can demonstrate freedom by volunteering more than was demanded rather than begrudging the service.
 
Administrator
Staff Member
Matthew 5 Commentary - Avoid Retribution and Resistance - BibleGateway.com

Avoid Retribution and Resistance

Jesus here warns against legal retribution (vv. 38-39) and goes so far as to undercut legal resistance altogether with a verse that, if followed literally, would leave most Christians stark naked (v. 40). He also advocates not only compliance but actual cooperation with a member of an occupying army who might be keeping you from your livelihood (v. 41), as well as with the beggar or others who seek our help (v. 42). (Taking the last verse literally would also break most of us financially. Consider how many requests for money come in the mail each week!) If Jesus is not genuinely advocating nudity and living on the street-that is, if he is speaking the language of rhetorical overstatement (5:18-19, 29-32; 6:3)-this still does not absolve us from taking his demand seriously. Jesus utilized hyperbole precisely to challenge his hearers, to force us to consider what we value.

Jesus' words strike at the very core of human selfishness, summoning us to value others above ourselves in concrete and consistent ways. Some misread this text as if it says not to oppose injustice; what it really says, however, is that we should be so unselfish and trust God so much that we leave our vindication with him. We have no honor or property worth defending compared with the opportunity to show how much we love God and everyone else. By not retaliating, by not coming down to the oppressors' level, we necessarily will appear unrealistic to the world. Jesus' way scorns the world's honor and appears realistic only to those with the eyes of faith. It is the lifestyle of those who anticipate his coming kingdom (4:17).

Jesus Challenges Our Desire for Personal Vindication (5:38) Eye for eye never meant that a person could exact vengeance directly for his or her own eye; it meant that one should take the offender to court, where the sentence could be executed legally. People sometimes cite this example as a case of Jesus' disagreeing with the Old Testament. But a society could recognize the legal justice of eye for eye while its sages warned against descending to oppressors' moral level by fighting evil with evil (Akkadian wisdom in Pritchard 1955:426). Jesus is not so much revoking a standard for justice as calling his followers not to make use of it; we qualify justice with mercy because we do not need to avenge our honor. Jesus calls for this humble response of faith in God; God alone is the final arbiter of justice, and we must trust him to fulfill it.

Turning the Other Cheek, Letting God Vindicate Us (5:39)

As in much of Jesus' teaching, pressing his illustration the wrong way may obscure his point. In fact, this would read Scripture the very way he was warning against: if someone hits us in the nose, or has already struck us on both cheeks, are we finally free to hit back? Jesus gives us a radical example so we will avoid retaliation, not so we will explore the limits of his example (see Tannehill 1975:73). A backhanded blow to the right cheek did not imply shattered teeth (tooth for tooth was a separate statement); it was an insult, the severest public affront to a person's dignity (Lam 3:30; Jeremias 1963:28 and 1971:239). God's prophets sometimes suffered such ill-treatment (1 Kings 22:24; Is 50:6). Yet though this was more an affront to honor, a challenge, than a physical injury, ancient societies typically provided legal recourse for this offense within the lex talionis regulations (Pritchard 1955:163, 175; see also Gaius Inst. 3.220).

In the case of an offense to our personal dignity, Jesus not only warns us not to avenge our honor by retaliating but suggests that we indulge the offender further. By freely offering our other cheek, we show that those who are secure in their status before God do not value human honor. Indeed, in some sense we practice resistance by showing our contempt for the value of our insulter's (and perhaps the onlookers') opinions! Because we value God's honor rather than our own (Mt 5:16; 6:1-18), because our very lives become forfeit to us when we begin to follow Jesus Christ (16:24-27), we have no honor of our own to lose. In this way we testify to those who insult us of a higher allegiance of which they should take notice.

Legal Nonresistance (5:40)

Rather than trying to get an inner garment back by legal recourse, one should relinquish the outer one too! If taken literally, this practice would quickly lead to nudity (see also Stein 1978:10), an intolerable dishonor in Palestinian Jewish society (for example, Jub. 7:8-10, 20; 1QS 7.12). Many peasants (at least in poorer areas like Egypt) had only one outer cloak and pursued whatever legal recourse necessary to get it back if it was seized (CPJ 1:239-40, 129.5). Because the outer cloak doubled as a poor man's bedding, biblical law permitted no one to take it, even as a pledge overnight (Ex 22:26-27; Deut 24:12-13). Thus Jesus demands that we surrender the very possession the law explicitly protects from legal seizure (Guelich 1982:222). To force his hearers to think, then, Jesus provides a shockingly graphic, almost humorous illustration of what he means by nonresistance. His hearers value honor and things more than they value the kingdom.

This passage is a graphic image, but if we read it literally, believers should never take anyone to court. How far do we press Jesus' image here, or Paul's in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8?

A driver had slammed into (and demolished) the car of one of my students, a new Christian, and the student feared that reporting him to her insurance company would violate the spirit of this passage. In such cases I suspect that insurance is our society's way of providing for the parties involved with a minimum of pain to both. But our very questions regarding how far to press Jesus' words force us to grapple with his principle here. Nothing a person can take from us matters in the end anyway; we must love our enemies and seek to turn them into friends.

Love Even Your Oppressors (5:41)

Here Matthew probably means submission to a Roman soldier's demands. Because tax revenues did not cover all the Roman army's needs, soldiers could requisition what they required (N. Lewis 1983:172-73; Rapske 1994:14). Romans could legally demand local inhabitants to provide forced labor if they wanted (as in Mt 27:32) and were known to abuse this privilege (for example, Apul. Metam. 9.39). Yet "going the extra mile" represents not only submitting to unjust demands but actually exceeding them-showing our oppressors that we love them and take no offense, although our associates may wrongly view this love as collaboration with an enemy occupation. The truth of this passage is a life-and-death matter for many believers. Members of both sides in wars have often killed Christians for refusing to take sides; gangs in inner cities can present similar pressures.

Such courageous love is not easy to come by and is easily stifled by patriotism. To take but one example that challenges my own culture, many white U.S. citizens may wish to rethink the patriotic lens through which they view the American colonies' revolt against Britain in the 1770s-did they really have grounds for secession of which Jesus would have approved if they had been his disciples? Past oppression is also easily recalled. British Christians might consider their feelings for Germans; Korean and Chinese Christians, for the Japanese. In some form the principle can apply to most national, racial and cultural groups. While early Christians responded to their persecutors with defiant love (a humility the persecutors often viewed as arrogance), many politically zealous Christians in the United States guard their rights so fiercely that they are easily given to anger (which opponents also view as arrogance).

Jesus and Paul responded firmly to unjust blows in the face (Jn 18:22-23; Acts 23:2-5) and in other circumstances (Jn 8:40-44; Acts 16:37; 22:25; 25:11; 26:25) without retaliating in their own interests. Thus the text need not rule out all forms of resistance (see Clavier 1957; France 1985:126; Vermes 1993:36). But whether persecuted as Christians or for other reasons, we must respond with love and kindness (like the workers at a pregnancy-support clinic who brought food out to abortion-rights picketers). We must resist injustice and refuse to comply with demands that compromise justice; but we must do so in kindness and love, not with violence or retribution.

Jesus' words are designed to shock us into considering our values, but how far do we press Jesus' meaning? Is he calling for personal or societal nonviolence? Within a week after my conversion, my first reading of Matthew 5 led me to abandon my peace-through-strength militarism for a thoroughgoing, martyrdom-anticipating pacifism, at least on the personal level. Yet I have come to wonder whether on a corporate level just military interventions might not sometimes be a lesser evil than tolerating unjust military actions tantamount to genocide (such as those of Hitler). Can meek and weaponless police officers enforce laws designed to restrain drug dealers? Possessions may not matter, but human life clearly does (Mt 6:25).

Still, it is easy for nations to abuse the rhetoric of justice for self-serving violence, and unlike C. S. Lewis and some other Christian thinkers I respect, I continue to struggle with the idea of "loving your enemy" while you are trying to kill him. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pacifist Christian who opposed Hitler's regime, ultimately decided to participate in an assassination attempt against Hitler. He preferred to "do evil rather than to be evil," arguing that tolerating such evil as Hitler was tantamount to supporting that evil. The plot failed, and Bonhoeffer was executed with his coconspirators. What would we have done had we been in Bonhoeffer's place? For some of us, at least, this seems to be a hard question demanding charity toward those whose conclusions differ from our own.

At least on a personal level, however, Jesus' point is both uncomfortable and difficult to evade. The life of Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us that the meek rarely advance their cause without paying a high personal price, even martyrdom. Do we have the courage to stand for justice yet do so without this world's weapons of violence and hatred (see Thurman 1981:88)? While Jesus' teaching cannot be conformed to the agendas of those who advocate violent revolution, no matter how just their cause, neither does it mean total passivity in the face of evil. It does not mean that an abused wife must remain in the home in the face of abuse; it does not mean that God expects people being massacred to remain instead of fleeing (compare Mt 2:13-20; 10:23). James, an advocate of peace (Jas 2:11; 3:13-18; 4:1-2), was unrestrained in his denunciation of those who oppressed the poor (Jas 5:1-6; see Keener 1991c).

Rather, Jesus' teaching does mean that we depend on God rather than on human weapons, although God may sovereignly raise up human weapons to fight the oppressors. If we value justice and compassion for persons rather than merely utopian idealism, we must also calculate the human cost of opposing various degrees of injustice. In first-century Palestine, few "safe" vehicles existed for nonviolent social protest against the Romans; Romans viewed most public protest as linked with revolution, and punished it accordingly. In a society like ours where Christian egalitarianism has helped shape conceptions of justice, nonviolent protest stands a much better chance of working. Neither violent revolutionaries (whose cause may be more just than their methods) nor the well-fed who complacently ignore the rest of the world's pain (and whose cause is merely personal advancement) may embrace Jesus without either distorting him or transforming themselves in the process.

Yet Jesus' own life explains the meekness he prescribes. When the time appointed by his Father arrived, Jesus allowed people to crucify him, trusting his Father's coming vindication to raise him from the dead (Mt 17:11; 20:18-19). He was too meek to cry out or bruise a reed until the time would come to bring "justice to victory" (12:19-20). Yet he proclaimed justice (12:18), openly denounced the unjust (23:13-36) and actively, even somewhat "violently," protested unrighteousness although he knew what it would cost him (21:12-13). Jesus was meek (11:29), but he was not a wimp. He called his disciples to be both harmless as doves and wise as serpents (10:16)-in short, to be ruled by the law of love (22:39). Love of neighbor not only does no harm to a neighbor but bids us place ourselves in harm's way to protect our neighbor.

Surrender Your Possessions to Whoever Requests Them (5:42)

Judaism recognized giving to beggars as a moral obligation. Judaism stressed both charity and a high work ethic; most beggars genuinely had no alternative means of income. Unlike some of Jesus' contemporaries (Hengel 1974:20; see also Jeremias 1969:127), he places no cap on giving. While Jesus lived simply, he did have a home (4:13), like most other Galileans (albeit probably a modest one, like most of his townspeople). Yet if Jesus merely counseled "Live simply" without confronting us with concrete, graphic illustrations, many of us would define simplicity in terms of our desires rather than in terms of the world's great needs. Jesus forces us to decide how much we love others-and him.

Again Jesus invites us to grapple with his point, to which he will return with far greater force in 6:19-34. If nonresistance means disdaining our right to personal honor (5:38-39), our most basic possessions (v. 40) and our labor and time (v. 41) when others seek them by force, we must also disdain these things in view of the needs of the poor (v. 42). When the kingdom comes, our deeds rather than our wealth will matter (6:19-21; compare 25:34-46). In the meantime those who disdain everything else for the kingdom (13:44-45) must do with these other possessions what Jesus wills: give them to those who need them more (19:21). Our "vested interests" must be in heaven, not on earth (6:19-21). If we cannot value the kingdom that much, Jesus says, it will not belong to us (19:29-30).
 
Active
So you're believing that if someone physically attacks you, just stand there and new assaulted? Until the attacker stops eventually?
Jesus said: "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."
 
Administrator
Staff Member
You avoided the question and once again misinterpreted the passage. I gave you bible study notes and commentary that explains it clearly and you still misconstrue His Word. There's a severe penalty for false teaching.
 
Active
I thought the Bible study notes you posted were very good. I am struggling to understand how you think I am misconstruing Jesus' word.
 
Active
@Chad, given that you rightly point out the seriousness of false teaching,could you either point out my error or withdraw the accusation.
 
Administrator
Staff Member
I've already done that in more than one post brother. Why can't you see this right before your eyes? You misinterpret the passage and its been addressed to you by myself and others here.
 
Active
Sorry if it seems like i'm being obtuse. I don't see where the charge of false teaching comes from. I don't have a quarrel with either of the Bible studies you posted. Could you explain please?
 
Loyal
Luke 22:35; And He said to them, “When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?” They said, “No, nothing.”
Luke 22:36; And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one.
Luke 22:37; For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘And He was numbered with transgressors’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.”
Luke 22:38; They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.”

Obviously Jesus wanted the disciples to be able to defend themselves.
All through the old testament. (over 30 times) God helped the Israelites overcome enemies, sometimes He did this completely
on His own (covering the Egyptians with the Red Sea) but MOST of the time, he involved the Israelites in defending themselves.
Virtually none of David's victories for example (starting with Goliath) happened without some military action from David himself.
 
Loyal
Jesus Himself was not above defending His beliefs and the integrity of the Father.

John 2:13; The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
John 2:14; And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables.
John 2:15; And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables;
John 2:16; and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.”
John 2:17; His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house will consume me.”
 
Loyal
Matt 26:52; Then Jesus *said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.
Matt 26:53; Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?
Matt 26:54; How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?”

Now of course Jesus knew His destiny. He already told the disciples He would be crucified before this. He already prayed the prayed of asking
the Father to remove this cup if possible. He knew what was coming. He could have asked the Father for 12,000 angels to defend Him.
It wouldn't have been a sin if He did. Defending yourself is not a sin. However not doing the will of God is. So Jesus chose to be crucified.
 

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