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  • Writer's pictureThe Hermit of Antipolo

Challenged By Jesus (The Way Forward In Christ Part 217)

Gospel: Matthew 5:38-42

Jesus challenges us with a new way of life, a life not according to the world’s standards but God’s. See what Jesus says in today’s gospel.

“Offer no resistance to one who is evil.” (v.39a). But is it not right and Christian to defend oneself and one’s loved ones against evil persons wanting to do us harm?

“If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.” (v.40). If something is legitimately your property but someone just wants it for himself, do you just surrender it and throw in a little extra as well? (Like: you want my car? OK here it is. But let me fill it up with gas first.)

“Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.” (v.41). Is forced service something good? But given that we are under threat and have no choice, do we do even more than what is asked of us?

Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back to one who wants to borrow.” (v.42). But are we not stewards who should be discerning as to what to make use of God’s money? Is it not right to refuse freeloaders who are capable of working but refuse to do so? Do we give money to one who we know will just use it to buy drugs? Is it not a common way to lose friends that of giving them a loan that they do not repay? Do we give people a fish or teach them how to fish?

So to refute the challenging directives is easy enough. But Jesus is the one saying these, and so we need to consider what is his point.

The first point about offering no resistance is that people do get into conflict, which often degenerates into greater conflict and inflicts greater harm. It is up to Christians to nip it in the bud. One way to do that is not to retaliate, even proportionally (per v.38). It takes two to tango or to fight. If one is unwilling, then there is no fight.

It is worthwhile to point out that this is not about allowing yourself to get beaten up, since self-defense is an acceptable Christian response. To strike someone on his right cheek with your right hand (or with a glove) is a backhanded slap. Thus it is a challenge to fight or to a duel. Or it can also be looked at as more of an insult rather than the start of a fistfight. So Jesus is saying, be willing to ignore the insult or slur or slight. That certainly will not escalate things, but hopefully, get the aggressor to stop and reflect.

The second point is about going beyond what is asked or demanded of us. It is about generosity and self-sacrificial giving, about being willing to give more than demanded or serve beyond what is just required. A Christian is a person for others, one who looks to the needs and well-being of others even at a personal cost to himself.

Jesus offered no resistance when arrested at Gethsemane. He did not retaliate when he was struck by the temple guard before the high priest, and when repeatedly struck by the Roman soldiers after his scourging. He gave up his clothes and his tunic prior to crucifixion. He carried his cross himself all the way (per John). He granted eternal life to the criminal who asked it of him.

Jesus gives us challenging teachings. But he has already shown the way.

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