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 anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Matthew 5: 38-42
Reflection - (I am away at the Nazareth family camp this week, but left the blog on automatic post-pilot. Comments are moderated, as I am not around to check them.)
More light shining here from the Sermon on the Mount that might shine a wee bit too brightly for our weak eyes and weak hearts. Other cheeks, extra miles, giving someone the shirt off your back—these five verses from the Gospel have at the very least yielded a rich supply of proverbial metaphors.
But… yeah, but. Do we live it? Some do – heck, many do, and the world is a better richer place for it. This Gospel confounds, confuses, confronts, conturbs us. (I just made up that word, spell check informs me. I don’t care. It’s a good word. Means ‘shakes us up together’. Henceforth.)
We are the conturbed, yes we are. Whaddya mean, turn the other cheek. I’m already bruised on all four of them! Whaddya mean, one extra mile – I’ve run a marathon for this guy! Whaddya mean, give my coat – it’s winter, and I’m about to get arrested for indecent exposure as it is! Whaddya mean… and what about governments and politics and businesses and people abusing other people and, and, and, and…
Conturbations abound. As it happens, answers abound for all the above questions and situations. It is interesting that the Lord does not say, “Let someone beat you up until you are dead, walk with them until your legs give out, and give them your entire wardrobe.” He could have, but didn’t. It’s one extra blow, one more mile, one more piece of clothing than was requested. Generosity and non-retaliation, in other words, but not masochistic murder-suicide pacts.
In relation to the questions of governments and economies and all that stuff… it seems to me that the Gospel is fundamentally addressed to human beings, not institutions, and that these institutions have obligations to those who they are meant to serve: a government its citizens, a business its customers and employees. But even there, it seems to me that Gospel generosity and Gospel charity has a definite place, a definite good, and that God does mean this Gospel for all of us in all these situations.
The Gospel conturbs us, all right, but here’s the thing. It works. The path of revenge and stinginess and disputatious wrangling works, too, if our goal is spreading human misery to the four corners of the earth. If our goal is to live in peace and joy, and to at least invite others to that peace and joy, the Gospel is the way for us.
Oh, what a conturbatious thing it is, to let that light of faith enter our little lives and little hearts. Shakes us all up, together. So much easier, it would seem, to just let nature take its course. You hit me, I hit you, then our families get involved and we have a feud, and away we go. Forgiveness, non-retaliation, reconciliation, foolish generous love—who wants to get into all that stuff?
Indeed. Who wants to? You? Me?