It has been said that few passages of Scripture summarize Christian ethics more succinctly than today's passage. It could also be said that few passages are more misunderstood.
There are several recognizable phrases in this passage: "Turn the other cheek"; "Go the second mile"; "Love your enemies." People who have never set foot inside a church are familiar with these sayings. But the question is: What do they mean and how do they apply to our lives today—almost 2000 years after they were spoken?
Though Jesus is referring to laws and customs that were specific to his culture, his words do apply to where we live today in the 21st century, because the desire for revenge is as much an issue for us today as it was for those living in the first century. When someone does you wrong, when someone takes advantage of you or bullies you, you want to get even.
As we begin looking at this passage, I want to begin by taking a closer look at the statements Jesus made that are sometimes misinterpreted; this will help put these words in their proper perspective.
First of all, Jesus said …
(v. 39) "Do not resist an evil person."
Does this mean that we should become completely passive and let others walk all over us? That we should do nothing to protect our lives or the lives of our children? Or that we should never stand up for our rights? Of course not. When Jesus drove the money-changers out of the temple he wasn't being passive. When Paul demanded his rights as a Roman citizen after being without trial in Acts 16, he wasn't being passive. And when Jesus and Paul encouraged believers to confront those who sin in order to help them to find forgiveness, they weren't encouraging ...
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