Monday, May 28, 2018

If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it.   If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life.  No more tit-for-tat stuff.  Live generously.” Luke 6:29-30 (MSG)

How literal is Jesus applying this “turn the other check” stuff?  If someone wants your car, do you willingly hand him your keys and then throw in the house keys to boot to show how much like Jesus you are?  Wouldn’t that be practicing “the servant life.”  How far does Jesus want us to go?  Is there a quitting place, or is he saying, “No stop signs?”

A couple of rebuttals are offered.  One says, “Jesus is talking about turning the cheek, not giving him your keys.”  A second one follows, “Turn and give your cheek once, maybe twice.  But then the next ‘laying on of hands’ will be yours against his cheek!”  Does either one express Jesus’ teaching?  Of course, the Lord also said “If your eye distracts you from God, pull it out and throw it away.  You’re better off one-eyed and alive than exercising your twenty-twenty vision from inside the fire of hell.” Mark 9:47-48 (MSG). 

Isn’t Jesus saying, “Give your all?”  However, what if your other eye offended you?  I haven’t seen any one-eyed Christians, nor those with two torn out!  Isn’t it strange that if 100% is expected, Peter still had a house to go home to (Matthew 8:14)?  Keep in mind, all a person had to do is ask and the Christian is to give and not expect anything back (Luke 6:29-30).  If Jesus statements are literal, non-believers would be flocking to saints to take their freebies.  Poor Barnabas would not have been able to give what he did because he would have practiced “the servant life.”  his “generosity” would have depleted his gift before he could get to the assembly (Acts 4:36-37).  If that had happened, it could have eliminated the Christian couple from doing what they did (Acts 5:1-10).  The “fear” experienced by the church and others would not have happened (Acts 5:11).  The burial deacons could have remained in the assembly until the closing prayer.

Yet, the dilemma is, Jesus said do it!  So, we must obey Jesus by turning the other cheek, plucking out that eye, or removing that hand!  Ah, but someone pontificates, “You’ve got to use ‘Common Sense’ to understand those passages.”  But whose common sense?  Everyone thinks his is it!   Why not mine?  Mine is common and it makes sense to me!  Isn’t that how additional denominations are created!  Isn’t “common sense” related closely with “I think,” “in my judgment,” or” I’m more comfortable with”?  Yet, Jesus did say it!  So, as followers of Jesus, how do we put that command into action?  That is the difficult part.  We can talk about it endlessly, but without practice we’re saddled with a “faith only” religion!  If it is a literal command, it must be literally done!  Without action, there is no discipleship!  Perhaps we salve our consciences because we know of no older saint who is minus an eye, a hand, or displaying rosy cheeks!  Even so, is an excuse acceptable in the eyes of God for neglecting to obey a command of His Son?

So, followers of Jesus are caught in a dilemma.  How tall must one stand up before he is offensive?  When Christians themselves aren’t sure of the answer, we certainly can’t look to the unbeliever for our standard.  We’ve been doing that for the past 50 years and things keep going South!  Some follow Jesus’ example with the scribes and Pharisees and “tell it like it is.”  Yet, there are some, like the Westboro Baptist Church which are accused of “hate speech.”  Would Jesus be comfortable in their membership?  What about ours?  So, why would Jesus make such a statement?  Have we missed something?

Is Jesus using what appears to be extreme language to say we need to be different?  Did any apostle end up minus an eye or hand?  Does history reveal a Jesus group of one eyed or one handed followers?  If not, why?  What do you find?

Apply your mind to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge.” Proverbs 23:12 (RSV).

So, are you remaining with the literal statement by turning the other cheek?  Have you plucked an eye or cut off a hand yet?  If not, how are you being different?