Breaking the CycleIn our reading for today Jesus places some very difficult challenges in our path. These instructions are hard to hear and even harder to put into practice.
Some background is needed: Jesus makes reference to the Old Testament principle of "Eye for eye and tooth for tooth." This is known as the Lex Talionis - the law of retaliation. While some regard the Lex Talionis as primitive and bloodthirsty, it was actually a law that put limits on retaliation. The problem was that one man's tooth would be knocked out in a quarrel and he would fetch his relatives and kill or paralyse the man who knocked out his tooth. Rather than promoting violence, Lex Talionis actually limited the escalating cycle of violence.
Now Jesus takes this even further. He doesn't want to limit the cycle of violence, He wants to end it.
This is the key principle: Breaking the cycle of violence.
Jesus uses five examples to illustrate the radical ways that one could end cycles of escalating violence and retribution.
1. Turn the other cheek.
2. When sued for your tunic, offer your cloak as well.
3. When commanded to carry a burden for a mile, do two.
4. Give to those who ask for help.
5. Lend to those who need to borrow.
When one digs into each of these examples it would be easy to protest and say "But doesn't this make us doormats?" or "But what about my rights?"
These are not trivial concerns. But we have to admit that all our rules and regulations are not curbing the cycles of violence in our world. So... could it be that a group of people who refuse to be sucked into the cycles of violence, litigation, oppression and poverty could use radical generosity to bring about change?
This is the vision that Jesus has for the church.
|You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' 39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew5:38-42)|