Hard Sayings

What are we to make of certain Gospel teachings? Sometimes Jesus gives us instructions that seem to be utterly impossible for us to follow. Today’s Gospel passage from Matthew is one of those.

If someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.

If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well..

Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.

What are we to do with statements like these? The tempting thing, of course, is to say, “Well, you know, Jesus didn’t really mean that literally. He doesn’t really expect us to turn the other cheek….or hand someone our cloak as well.”

We have a funny way of deciding that Jesus only meant literally those things we like and find comfortable. Give us a really challenging instruction, however, and we can come up with all sorts of reasons we don’t really have to worry about it.

I’m not someone who takes everything in the Gospels as literal truth. But I have a funny feeling Jesus actually did mean what he said here. I say that with something of a shudder because I’m having trouble imagining myself handing over my laptop or some other possession to someone who has just stolen my wallet. And (wimp about pain that I am) I’m not doing a whole lot better imagining myself allowing someone who has just hit me to do it again.

So I don’t have any particularly helpful advice or brilliant (or even semi-brilliant) observations to make here. My invitation this morning is simply to consider that maybe Jesus really did mean what he said here: that this is how he expects us to deal with each other. And when you do that, to spend some time reflecting on what that might mean to you and your dealings with others.


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