by: FCC Staff
Today’s proverb is a very substantial teaching on many levels. It works to say that if you live a godly life, the Lord will assist in making his enemies be at peace with him. It also works to say that when you’re living a godly life, you yourself strive to make peace with your enemies, and this, is pleasing to God.
Jesus taught much on finding peace. He taught that to be a peacemaker, is to be blessed. (Matthew 5:9) Both in making peace between man and God, (Rom 5:1, Col 1:20, Eph 2:15) and making peace between other people. (Heb 12:14 Rom 12:18 James 3:18)
Yes, there are times when we need to resist evil, and by force. Jesus taught us what this looks like, when he taught, “ You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”
Jesus wasn’t advocating that we be doormats and let people do to us whatever they wanted to us. Jesus was quoting the Law when he said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ He wasn’t tossing that out. He showed that getting slapped, taking a tunic, being forced to carry another’s burden, someone begging or asking to borrow from us… these were not lost eyes or teeth. The section of the Law Jesus was quoting was pretty clear how to deal with theft, abuse, murder, negligent homicide, reckless endangerment, none of which entailed just letting it happen.
We wrestle with this idea of turning the other cheek because we feel like it is robbing us of justice, taking away our peace. Not so. The Law said, ““If people quarrel and one person hits another with a stone or with their fist and the victim does not die but is confined to bed, the one who struck the blow will not be held liable if the other can get up and walk around outside with a staff; however, the guilty party must pay the injured person for any loss of time and see that the victim is completely healed.” If someone slaps you, don’t retaliate. If you do, you might harm them, and then you’re liable under the law. Turn the other cheek. If they hit you again… well legally you have rights in the situation.
The section that contains the “eye for eye” rule is dealing with how to establish justice if a fight escalates and innocent people are hurt. The death penalty could be on the table. You could loose limbs, money… it’s not worth it. De-escalate. Justice isn’t established via fistfights.
The cloak and tunic were not a random selections either. Under the Law if someone sued you, you could offer up your cloak as collateral. However, if you took a cloak as collateral, you had to wait outside their home while they brought it out to you willingly. And you had to return it by sundown, so they wouldn’t be cold at night. ( Exodus 22:25-27 Deuteronomy 24:10-13) And the one who had the cloak returned was to bless the one who returned it. So, if someone sues you for your shirt, give them the “collateral” cloak willingly, they had to return it every night anyway, and you could then bless them as they did.
These were ideals from the Law, that Jesus wasn’t setting aside, he was and is showing us how we can be peacemakers and blessings to others, even when we are in conflict with them. To our benefit and theirs. This was the Law of the Covenant all of Israel was to abide by, in peace. Not to be used to cause more conflict, harm and death. The goal of the Law was peace.
But yes, this was in dealing with people who shared the faith, values and legal systems of the nation of Israel. But Jesus didn’t stop there. “if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” The Persians made their postal system work by giving couriers the right to force anyone to carry their post one mile for them. The Romans modified this, and their soldiers could force anyone to carry all their gear for one mile. (Estimates range that their kits weighed between 60-90 pounds.)
And if you think about this in practical terms, it wasn’t like you’d have a single roman soldier, going the same way as you down the road, come and ask you to carry his stuff as you went.
No they’d show up in a group, sometimes an entire legion and everyone who was busy doing their daily work had to stop, grab this gear and take it a mile down the road. THEN you had to walk the mile back to where you were working and get back to your own business. So, taking the gear a second mile could mean you were committing to a 4 mile walk, lugging a huge pack of gear for two miles.
And WHO are we doing this for again Jesus? Romans. Unbelieving, violent, oppressors.
What happened if you refused to carry the burden for a Roman soldier? You got flogged. If you resisted Roman rule? You got crucified. And you didn’t even have the protection of the God’s Law. Rome was a law in and of itself. So, go the second mile. What was the best way to make peace then with a Roman? Carry his stuff. Go an extra mile. De-escalate. Peace.
This is what our proverb, and following Jesus teaches us. That to be a peacemaker, we must find ways to establish justice that do not veer into personal retaliation, petty fights, and physical conflicts that can quickly get out of hand. There is justice, and we should seek it. But when we live and act in ways that are pleasing to God, it makes it much more likely that we can live peacefully with all, even our enemies.
Prayer for Today
Father help me to be a peacemaker, and that my actions and words can be pleasing to you. Jesus teach me how to peacefully establish justice, to be wise in how I handle conflict, and not allow my duty and desire to see justice done turn into a quest for personal revenge or satisfaction. Guide me by your Holy Spirit, that I can find the best ways to serve you, by fellow believers and even my enemies. Grant me your peace, that I may bestow it on others. Amen.