Turn in your Bible to Matthew chapter 5, beginning with verse 38. Jesus says: "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."
Now, if you were an African American living in the south in the 1950s, how would you hear this? If you were a Jew living in Europe in the late 1930s, how do you hear this? If you're a victim of injustice, bigotry, or persecution, how do you hear this? The problem we have with Jesus' teaching both here and throughout the Sermon on the Mount is a lot of it does not fit with our experiences in this world.
Many of us experience hatred and violence and injustice and persecution, and then we come to the words of Jesus and he says: Turn the other cheek? Do good to those who mean to harm you? Give your shirt when they've already stolen your coat? It doesn't make sense. And even if you've grown up your whole life in the church, even if you've been taught these verses, even if you have them memorized, the fact is when you come up against some kind of evil or danger or threat, a lot of times these words get thrown out the window. They don't make sense when we're in that moment.
To illustrate that point, I want to tell you a story from Eugene Peterson about his experience as a school boy. He says:
I grew up in a Christian home with good parents. I was told the story of Jesus and instructed in the right way to live, and then I went ...
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Skye Jethani is the executive editor of Leadership Journal, an ordained pastor, and the author of numerous books. He co-hosts the weekly Phil Vischer Podcast and speaks regularly at churches, conferences, and colleges. He makes his home with his wife and three children in Wheaton, Illinois.