As I have mentioned in previous posts Luke Chapter 6 is at the heart of the Bible as far as I am concerned. Lets look at some of it starting at verse 27.
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
These are some very hard words when we take them literally! Jesus gave us many messages through parables, stories, and such. Sometimes that is difficult to understand. Why didn’t he just come out with a set of rules instead of constantly telling us stories. I think part of the reason for that is because he knew that two thousand years in the future we would still be studying his messages and they needed to seem relevant to that time and all the time before and after.
When I look for the underlying message from the above words I think Jesus was trying to tell us that we are not to have a retaliatory attitude. In other words he was canceling the Old Testament verses about an eye for an eye. Even though he claimed he only came to fulfill scriptures, Jesus seemed to take several Old Testament rules off the table during his ministry. When God said vengeance was his I think he really meant it. It is not up to us to take revenge on others who we deem has done us wrong. God will do that; maybe not in this life but certainly in the next.
Of course, like so many other messages from Jesus the final sentence above is the one that attracts all the attention. Like the story of the sheep and the goats where Jesus is talking about “being” Christians instead of jut mouthing the words, we often ignore the verses we don’t like. Many have turned sheep/goats story into being about beliefs instead of actions. Yes, there are messages hidden within many of Jesus’ word but we should not immediately discount the possibility that he might have also meant them literally.
For most of us it would be extremely hard to turn the other cheek or to not try to get back what others take from us. But I think the underlying message in this instance is that we should not give much priority to the “things” we own. They are just things and are not that important in a true Christian’s life. Being our brother’s keeper is a hard thing to practice in this world but that is what Jesus insists if you espouse to be a Christian.
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless and pray for those who mistreat you. Don’t fight back, give to anyone who asks. These are hard lessons to learn. May we all struggle daily to try to live up to them.