“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your
cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.-Matthew 5:38-42 (NKJV)
Question: How do you do, when someone else takes over your control? How do you do, when someone forces you to do something that was not your plan? How do you react when someone else’s action impinges upon you?
The way of the world is “tit for tat”, resistance, or taking offense, when someone impinges on our control. Generosity exists in the world, but it seems that Jesus calls his followers to a lifestyle of giving and lending freely. He calls us to a love life that goes beyond the love of the world, where we sacrificially let others impose on us and put others first, in a spirit of meekness, without offense.
When we read Jesus’ words in his sermon on the mount, we have to keep in mind that he never calls us to a new legalism. The Christian life is not a set of “do’s and do not’s”. The Christian life is a life in Christ.
Christ lives through me, as I die. I have to die, my self has to die, for him to live. Holiness comes through his life, living in my life; not through being good, myself. My self is called to die, so that he can live through me.
I am focusing on this statement of Jesus:
And if anyone compels you to go one mile, go with him two.
We call this, “Going the second mile”.
I am on my journey in life, with all the things I do. I have places to go and people to see. I have work, I have meetings. I have all the things and relationships that make up my life.
In the midst of all that is in my life, someone, and they could be a someone I already know, or a stranger; comes along and “forces” or “compels” me to go in a direction I was not planning on going. We could call this a life interruption.
Jesus says that a person living through him goes along with the detour and does it double. We generously go above and beyond what is asked. It is not an exact thing, but a heart and spiritual attitude of character, lived out.
Jesus’ saying about allowing yourself to be compelled or forced to do something that was not in your plans, comes in a paragraph or section where he says to have a generous lifestyle. We don’t retaliate or selfishly defend our selves. The central operating principal of our lives is not self, but Christ.
The verse that describes the gospel message, so often quoted, is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son…” It is a message of giving for the sake of others. Jesus gave his life, and we follow him, giving our lives, our time, our attention, and our stuff.
We are not robots, but people being transformed into the image, being like, Christ. And so he lives his generous, loving life through us. All the while he takes good care of us too.
Every verse in the sermon on the mount is best understood within the whole context of the whole sermon or collection of words from Jesus. An outline, suggested by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jone, is as follows:
Matthew 5:3-10, The character of the Christian in and of himself.
Matthew 5:11-12, The character of the Christian, proved by the reaction of the world to him.
Matthew 5:13-16, An account of the relationship of the Christian to the world, OR the function of the Christian in society and in the world.
Matthew 5:17-48, Particular examples of how the Christian lives in the world:
- A general description of righteousness.
- His relationship towards:
- How to speak
- Retaliation & self-defense
- Emphasizing the spirit over the letter: the Pharisees emphasized the letter only. The details (letter) are an expression of the spirit, the transformed heart.
Matthew 6, The Christian living his life in the presence of God, in active submission to Him and entire dependence on Him.
Matthew 7, The Christian as one who lives always under the judgement and fear of God.
- The fear of God, for the Christian, is not being filled with fear, but reverence filled with love.
- The world lives in fear of judgement, while the Christian lives under the judgement of God.
The whole sermon on the mount is a description of character and not a code of ethics or a new law. Jesus is talking about the character, inside out, of his disciples. Jesus teaches about the spiritual life of his disciples and how they will behave, under certain circumstances, because of the life they have within them.
The sermon on the mount is about life in Christ.
Being compelled to do something you were not planning on is an imposition. Will you respond by being offended, in a “How dare you”, sort of a manner? Will you resist and selfishly not comply with someone else’s wishes, spiraling into fear, hurt, and anger? Will you “hit back” when you feel slapped?
These are all natural reactions, right? Once again, context is a huge key to these verses. We must have the beatitudes going or the transformation into Christ-likeness, through becoming his disciples and denying our selves, in process in our lives; because only his life in us can live the life he promises and desires and calls us to.
We can not “drop in” to Matthew 5:41, while skipping 5:3-16. We must be people of 5:3-16, to live or function in verses 17 onward. The person who does not take offense, who is generous, and when imposed upon, injured, and affronted; is loving and faithful to Christ, is a kingdom person.
Kingdom people have the central organizing factor in place in their lives of the Kingdom of God, and they behave in kingdom ways, under kingdom rule and reign. Kingdom people became kingdom people through Christ. The experiential doors-ways or experiences of becoming kingdom people who are in Christ, are described in the be-attitudes in Matthew 5:3-10.
If one has not entered into life in Christ and gone through these doors, hall ways, or experiences; then they will never stand a chance of behaving in Christ-like (life-in-Christ) or kingdom ways, in their lives. When we have one of these situations come up in our life, like someone imposing on our time or plans and forcing us to do something different, and we resist, hit back, or get offended; and fail the test, we don’t give up and run away, but we run back to Christ, to him and away from our selves, and re-apply and become reconciled to the beatitudes again and again and again.
Here they are:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
It starts with, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. When I fail, and I fail every day, I am in touch with my poverty of spirit. The fact that I admit that, means that I get to experience the kingdom of heaven. It is now my inheritance.
Conversely, if I don’t see my poverty in spirit, if I think I am ok, maybe not perfect but just ok, and the problem, my problem is these other people, and I want God to do it my way; then I do not have the kingdom and am not being and becoming a kingdom person.
“Poor in spirit”, does not mean self pity or that I am a victim of circumstances and that I am not getting what I am entitled to. It means I lack heavenly resources to live a life before God. It means I have realized that I am bankrupt.
“Blessed are those who mourn”, means people who feel bad about unrighteousness, their own and others. Remember that Jesus himself was a man of sorrows. He was deeply saddened by mankind. He was grieved.
The mourning for us is linked to our poverty of spirit, our spiritual bankruptcy in and of or selves. As we mourn, in our lives, we are comforted. The selfish person is not comforted in their anger about not getting their way. Their reservoir of anger fuels depression with is not mourning of the need to come into Christ and become kingdom. Their mourning is over wanting to be king or queen.
“Blessed are the meek”. The person in Christ is meek. They defer to others, they don’t need to be first or in charge, in control, or up front. They gladly serve as leader if need be. But they don’t lead or serve out of selfish need.
Non-meek means proud and selfish. The non-meek person needs to have their way and to be in control. The person under Christ’s control does not need to be in control. The controler controls because they are afraid to not be in control.
The ‘controller’ may have a control issue that stems from childhood abuse or neglect where they were left out of control, when their caregivers were not caring. Most people had imperfect parents who failed in some ways and some had horrific parents. Either way, Jesus can heal and redeem lives and makes provision for your unmet needs and your childhood trauma.
If a person does not accept their poverty of spirit and their utter sinfulness of their self and mourn that, the kingdom in inactive in their life. They are unable to live out Jesus life, because their un-dead selves are ruling the day. And we all are in this process.
When we fail the test, when we are not living as Jesus describes the life, we circle back to him for continued transformation, living through him, in his grace, and letting our self life go. Every failure is not the end, but part of the process. That was the message of Peter’s fall.
The truth is that he is right next to us, with us, in our failures or learning experiences. We choose to realize he is there or push that reality out of our consciousness. His disciples are people who practice his presence, in victory and in failure.
When we fall off the path or fall out and fail in the life, it is not over, but is part of the transformational process. It is non-linear and circular. We circle back to Christ and embrace him and the kingdom and let him restore us and transform us and intercede for us and the beatitudes become more a reality and then we become the persons described in the rest of the sermon.
The Christian is a person who allows themselves to be compelled, to be imposed upon, to be forced to do things to help others with what they see as important. And this is descriptive and an example, not a prescription, rule, or law. We have a spirit within that is being transformed and that spirit is one that goes “the second mile”.
We allow ourselves to be compelled to go the first and second mile, because that is the heart of God, and the heart of Christ. We don’t insist on our own rights and wrestle control from others. We are ok with taking a low seat and not speaking out and up immediately. We may be a bit further along in the life in Christ, and we make way and go the second mile with the weaker brother or sister, without judgement and with graciousness, treating them as full brothers or sisters who are equal heirs in the kingdom.
Studies in the Sermon on The Mount, D. Martyn Llyod-Jones
The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard
Matthew, Donald Hagner