Posted by: sean | April 21, 2008

Luke 6.27-37

Luke 6.27-37
27 “But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32 For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit (is) that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. 35 But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as (also) your Father is merciful.

37 “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.

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Responses

  1. This passage of scripture is one of the most widely and also most incorrectly, interpreted passages in the bible. Especially verse 29 along with it’s sister verses in Matthew 5:39-41.

    The source of the misinterpretation comes from taking the verse in the context of our time and not in the context of the world in which it was written, Roman-occupied Judea.

    There are three examples of oppression that Christ gives us. One is of physical violence when someone strikes you in the face. Another an oppressive seizure of property when your “tunic” is demanded from you. The last is of an oppressive demand of un-paid physical labor.

    In regard to the first, in 1st century Judean culture your right hand and left hand were both branded as the “clean hand” and the “un-clean hand”, respectively, which still holds true in many middle-eastern and Indian (India) cultures today.

    The striking of the cheek that Christ is speaking of, and the picture that the people present at the Sermon on the Mount would have plainly seen would have been of someone in power (a Pharisee?) striking someone of lesser social stature with the back of their right hand. Not to injure, but rather to humiliate and exert a show of power over that lesser individual (you can see an example of this in the trial scene of Passion of the Christ). The term “turning the other cheek” means not to present another surface for a masochistic reaction to the first blow, but rather a reaction to PREVENT another blow. You see, once the other cheek is turned, if the person doing the striking would chose to strike again, with the back of the hand, they would have to do so with their left hand. At which point, the person serving the blows would become the one humiliated because of the cultural that striking someone with your “un-clean” hand would present.

    In regard to the seizing of the tunic.. The majority of people in 1st century Judea had two garments. They wore an outer “tunic” and an “under garment”. If someone in power demanded you to give them your tunic, or wrongfully sued you for it. Immediately offering and attempting to remove the second garment, revealing your nakedness underneath would present an interesting predicament for the one demanding the tunic.

    See, unlike our culture where nakedness is “taboo” if you will, on behalf of the one who is naked, just the opposite was true for early Judaism. If someone was naked in 1st century Judea as well as in the cultures of the OT, and someone were to witness this act of exhibitionism, then the transgression would be with the beholder of the act and not the one who was actually naked (see the story of Noah’s son witnessing him naked in his tent after the flood or David’s witnessing of Bathsheba’s bathing).

    So if someone demands your tunic and you immediately offer and attempt to start removing your under garment along with the tunic, then not only would the tables of humiliation begin to turn on the one demanding your tunic, but they may even reverse their demand and tell you to dress yourself, while covering their eyes, ultimately foiling their plans to oppressively take something from you.

    And lastly, when it comes the example of someone forcing you to “go one mile” in Matthew’s account of the Sermon.. Again, inhabitants of Roman-occupied Judea would have immediately been presented with a completely different understanding than someone in our age and culture would.

    When the Romans built roads throughout their empire, they would mark the distances with huge boulders on the side of the road marking each mile. This is where the term “milestone” comes from. Under Roman rule, there was a law throughout the empire that at any give time, a Roman citizen could demand that a non-citizen carry their possessions for them while they traveled, unpaid. But in order to keep this law from being abused, the law also stated that the Roman Citizen was only allowed to demand that the non-citizen carry their possessions for no more than one mile. Forcing someone to carry something for more than a mile could result in legal repercussions for the Roman citizen.

    So, if a citizen walked up to a native of Judea and demanded that they carry their duffel bag one-mile down the road, and that native immediately picked up the bag and offered to carry it two miles. Hopefully this would have somewhat the same effect that the above example of the tunic seizure would have where the citizen would stop the native and move on looking for “easier prey”.

    So, when taken out of context and in the mindset and cultural understanding of our time, these passages look more like that of allowing oppression to continue and to take a passive (pacifistic?) stance when faced with oppression and evil on the grounds that any kind of resistance would be evil as well. But taken in the history and context of the time, these passages start to look less and less like masochistic, pacifistic instructions and more and more like teachings on how to avoid oppression through other means than that of direct retaliation.

    What I’d also like to point out as well is this: That Christ doesn’t append this instruction with what one should do if they are faced with such an evil person that regardless of the personal consequences, continues to hit with the “un-clean” hand, takes both garments, or allows or even demands the labor of two miles. He doesn’t say, “allow it to happen”, or “don’t do anything more to stop it”. To me that means that Christ was leaving that open to the individual to gauge the situation and to make the right decision (even based off of the Holy Spirit’s guidance) as to what force, if any, is needed to stand up against the oppression and put an end to it.

    My point being (and I think the point Christ was making here) is that we should always make force a LAST resort. We should find and exhaust EVERY last option, until the last moment, before we choose to result to force. For those of you military types I really think this is reflected in the Rules of Engagement that are presented to US soldiers before they go into battle.

    As followers of Christ, we are to mimic Christ. Christ stood for love and compassion. For self sacrifice and suffering. But He also stood for strength, victory over evil and justice. To mimic the first but ignore the second nature of Christ, as well as that of God, is to ignore the calling of who God wants us to be. If we stand by and do not allow God to use us as vessels of truth and justice as well as for love and compassion, then we might as well not do either because not standing for justice when you are placed in a situation where you are granted the power to do so, is just as wrong and evil as not showing love when granted the power to do so. Love and justice go hand in hand, they are the duality that is God. His natures are love and justice. Both create one whole nature and one compliments the other. One without the other creates an unbalanced view of what Godly love is.


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