Let the weak say “I am strong”

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.

Mt. 5:39.
Turn the other cheek.

Culture’s Interpretation

Forgive and forget. Make peace, not war.

Biblical Interpretation

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.
Mt. 5:40.
Give the other cloak.

Culture’s Interpretation

Don’t get upset over a minor loss. After all, you have insurance.

Biblical Interpretation

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.
Mt. 5:41.
Go the second mile.

Culture’s Interpretation

Do more than the boss says and you will get the promotion.

Biblical Interpretation

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!

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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?

9 thoughts on “Let the weak say “I am strong”

  1. You won’t hear this sort of stuff from “pastors”. Their financial support would wither away if this was taught from the pulpit.

    By the way, what was Jesus’ salary?

  2. Interestingly, I did first hear this from a pastor, from the Anabaptist movement. Many modern Anabaptist writings are refreshingly thoughtful and insightful.

  3. This is what both Gandhi and Martin Luther King knew when they bought about revolution.
    Martin Luther King actually addressed this is one of his speeches. He told his black brothers to stand strong in times of persecution but not to back down. He said something profound about when on is struck down but chooses to stand and bless their enemies.

    Not only does it confuse the enemy for a while, but if they choose to strike back again, the world sees the drastic differences between the good and the evil from both parties. The enemy’s actions speak louder of how much more evil they are. They are exposed as people bare witness of their evil actions. Our actions of goodwill expose the greater evil in the other party.

    Gandhi did the same.

    As an anti-war singer by the name of Michael J Franti put it:
    “The harder they hit us, the louder we become like a skin on a drum”
    I often remind myself of that quote. I love it. Look him up. You’l love his music guys.

  4. The problem with these arguments is that it assumes the evildoer still has some reserve of morality that will influence his behaviour, and that his actions are in the public arena or have the possibility of being exposed.

    If none of these assumptions hold, then the principle of standing up for what is right in a non-violent manner will not work – it will lead to the elimination of good and the triumph of evil. It is not a baseless assumption to state that much evil is done in secret, many wars are fought that the world at large has no interest in, and that evil doers do behave merclessly and without pity.

    It means that these principles can only function effectively in a world that does use violence, or the threat of violence through instruments of the state, to enforce law and the public good.

  5. Not if the evil-doer is completely convinced what they are doing is right. They can hide behind moralities pretty colours.

    I understand what you are saying David- but we are to be a voice for the oppressed. I don’t know about you, but the Afghanistan and Iraq war were pretty insignificant to the majority of the world. Yet the majority spoke out against the war because they saw the US being the aggressor, not Afghanistan or Iraq. The fact that the US held peaceful demonstrations yet it’s government bought in tanks to end protests indicates to me that when the meek stand up against the bully, everyone notices the bully and either chooses to remain silent or speak against oppressive leadership.

    I used Afghanistan and Iraq as examples. May this thread stick to the main topic and not on some Afghan & Iraq who’s right and who’s wrong schamozzle.

  6. Fantastic Topic!-astounded this has not been written more upon;The scriptural meanings really are highly functional and very strong.

    Yes David, I totally get you now; Ive experienced alot of evil done behind the scenes; behind peoples backs; in secluded places- this is where most bullying or abuse occurs, though I have to say, in most cases, though outrageously treated, [mostly, just as if the abuser expected me to pick up their crime, and do it to others], when I stayed with Jesus’ instructions, I became the stronger, the smarter, and probably most importantly, the most conscience-free man.

    “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.Proverbs 28:13”

    [ David, you probably have to pick up a stone, whack it into a sling, and train yourself dilligently to become like the guys below:

    “Among all these soldiers there were seven hundred chosen men who were left-handed, each of whom could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.Judges 20:16”
    -like your own immortal namesake, I wonder!]

    Ive just about seen em-all ;’ the biggest Dog on the Block, the Pecking-order people, the ‘Fear of Loss’ types, the Mini-Hitlers, the Blood-tasters, Divide & Conquerors, the Web-makers, Gangsters, ‘Dogs’ Snakes, Worm-in-the Apple types, the controlling ‘Witch’–and the list could go on, but Christs advice makes us upright!…..what makes these people tick?; FEAR.

    “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.1 John 4:18″

    Christs coming into the World was a deliberate Invasion into a Dark Empire-He, and we, are generally offensive to this world, and the way it thinks and works; [Just as on D-DAY; once upon a time, there were two, perfectly ‘lawful’ nations either side of the English Channel-until one decided to invade the other!]

    – dont be surprised if anybody shoots back, or offers the most terrible resistance to the simple goodness, delight and excellence you may bring-Yep, He is picking a fight, that is to be won by Love; and this is very tough; and certainly, a noble experience.

    I once met a woman whose husband had been murdered by the Mafia; she said”The bad people want to kill the good people”; so strange, but true in practice, for those who live in the dark often find light unbearable-it’s fearsome, inspires resentment & murderous envy, and is propelled by deep personal doubts and fears, and even laziness.

    Hah,- the Master told us to now;” if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. “Luke 22:36

    even though “He who lives by the sword shall die by it”- God is not a schizo!

    Well then; our People are instructed to be fully trained to peace; but certainly we are tough and able to defend ourselves, yet not given to a lifestyle of violence-yep, I can get that.

    And even so, we know that “the gentle will inherit the earth”; take a look around, and observe it already in action my friends!

    Evil hurts people; but principally the ones who initiate it; exactly as the ‘Do Unto Others’ teaches.- Every evil person I ever met just rotted-away with time…,until, just as the scripture describes..” they could not be found” Ps37:36.

    So, functionally, Gods work above is faultless & proven by practice.

    I quit the Army to learn how to Create, not destroy- In retrospect, I was learning how to Love, and Love my friends, is much Tougher!


  7. I like the turn the other cheek one.
    P.S There are so many good articles on here that I have to get around to looking at.

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