Impractical Christianity – Jesus can’t mean *that*
Several years ago, I was at a couples Bible study that my wife and I regularly attended. We were studying Matthew 5:38-42, part of the Sermon on the Mount, in which 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 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. (NIV)
The question we were pondering was: ‘Does Jesus really expect us to act this way?’ Taken literally, the passage is a mandate to lay oneself open to as much abuse as another person is willing to dispense.
I offered this insight: “Jesus can’t be saying that we have to act this way toward everyone. It would be impractical. We would run out of shirts! I think he’s saying that we have to be willing to yield to another person this way if God asks us to.”
No one challenged me, but someone should have, because my interpretation of the passage rendered it meaningless. I mean, you could replace “yield to another person this way” with any action and it would be equally true for a Christian: “We have to be willing to eat glass fragments and wash them down with sulfuric acid if God asks us to.”
Unfortunately, that kind of watering-down is necessary (but not sufficient!) to reconcile such a passage with common sense. These alleged words of Jesus cannot be followed verbatim. That’s why no one does.