Many of you may be aware of these interpretations of the following scriptures. They enable a very robust practice of faith. Critics of Christianity often see weakness in the cultural interpretations of these scriptures, but the biblical interpretation is powerful.
Turn the other cheek.
Forgive and forget. Make peace, not war.
The passage does not say “Turn the other cheek” as if to say that the disciple should invite another blow of the same kind. The first blow was to the right cheek, which was the backhand slap that demonstrated the dominance of the powerful over the powerless. The slapper wants the slappee to slink away in shame. But when the slappee is a disciple, he/she is to hold his/her ground and offer the left cheek. This forces the man of power to either escalate his persecution to a blow in earnest or to himself back down and slink away in shame. The disciple reflects the evil back to its source, exposes the sin, and begs repentance.
Give the other cloak.
Don’t get upset over a minor loss. After all, you have insurance.
After a landlord foreclosed on a failed farm property, he would sue the farmer for everything else he might own–but would never claim the “cloak”–the garment warn closest to the skin–by Deut. 24:12-13. But Jesus says that the disciple will not withhold even the cloak. He would add the cloak to the pile of assets and walk, naked, out of the court and into the arms of his fellow disciples–saying, in effect, “There–now you have everything. You have no more hold over me.” This, of course, forced the persecutor to look upon nakedness, a sin (see Gen. 9:20ff–it is not a sin for circumstances to cause one to be naked; the sin is in looking upon nakedness). Again, the sin of the persecutor is reflected back to its source by the disciple of Christ.
Go the second mile.
Do more than the boss says and you will get the promotion.
The verb here is not “force,” but “requisition.” It is only otherwise used in the New Testament to describe the requisitioning of the labor of Simon of Cyrene to carry Jesus’ cross (Mt. 27:32). Roman centurions had the right to requisition citizens to carry a pack for one mile–but anything further than that would cause the centurion to be judged guilty of the abuse of a citizen! It was common for the powerless to be “hassled” by the Roman occupying forces in this way–but Jesus says that the disciple is to pick up the pack gladly (perhaps engaging the adversary in banter as he carries the pack–asking about his family, the weather, and so on!). By continuing past the 1-mile limit, the disciple turns the tables on the persecutor, forcing him to beg him to drop the pack!
Clever and creative approach, isn’t it. So did Jesus say to invite a fight – one that you would not actually offer violence back in?
How would this approach apply today?