It isn’t a secret that I am a Jesus nerd. I geek out over Bible study in parallel translations with the original Greek on the side. I love the historical context and theological minutia that would put some people to sleep. But I have this one, little problem.
I don’t like it when Jesus says something that doesn’t fit with my view of the world. It makes me uncomfortable, and I am left wondering if there are any loopholes I can wiggle through.
This isn’t really such a little problem, though, because Jesus is always saying things that rub me the wrong way.
Like “If someone strikes you on one cheek, offer them the other.” I wouldn’t mind if Jesus said we shouldn’t hit back, I understand that, but invite them to hit me again?
Also, “If someone sues you for your shirt, give them your coat as well.” And then I’ll be naked, Jesus, what about that?
Then there’s “If someone forces you to go with them one mile, go with them two.” So I should just give way to coercion? Won’t that just encourage them?
Maybe he wasn’t serious, though. Right?
Or maybe he was.
Jesus was not just a religious teacher who said one thing and did another; he practiced what he preached. Jesus was struck, spit upon, had his beard pulled out, carried the instrument of his death, saw his clothing go to the winner as soldiers gambled at the foot of his cross.
So I guess he really meant what he said.
In a time and place where these scenarios were not speculative, but very real, Jesus was teaching his followers that it is far better to be persecuted than to be the persecutor. The Apostle Paul echoed from his exposure to Jesus’s teachings, “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” than to participate in systems of worldly oppression. It is far better to be cheated than the one who cheats. It is far better to stand naked on the street after a forced two mile hike, with both cheeks stinging than to be the one exercising position and power for selfish gain.
These things are hard for me. It is not easy to think of giving up my rights, I am after all an American. I am accustomed to fighting for my rights, to standing up for my rights. Laying them down is counter to my secular culture, and in many ways my church culture. You won’t find many churches or even individual believers lately who have rejoiced when they feel their rights threatened. This isn’t a scathing attack, the response is very human. The problem is that it is not very Christ-like.
What is it that will change our minds, our hearts, our instincts so that we line up with Jesus’s teachings? Practice. I wish there was a magic wand, but it seems the only way we accustom ourselves to the ways of the kingdom is to practice what we preach.
When your rights are threatened, go beyond refusing to threaten in return, go the extra mile.
Consistency in the face of difficulty.