Tag Archive for Matthew

Doing Justice

Have you ever wondered why Jesus told people to walk around naked? It’s a topic I am hoping to make my first sermon sometime in the next two years. In the meantime here is a really short answer I offered in response to an answer on a midterm. I hope it has relevance to your life even though you may be missing all the details and context from the class! Here goes…

[Walter Wink]* appeals to the verses in Romans, 1 Thessalonians and 1 Peter, which say “do not repay evil for evil” and to Matthew 5 where it says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘an eye for an eye’ and ‘a tooth for a tooth’, but I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them your other cheek also. If someone sues you and wants to take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” 

He appeals to these texts because he believes that this passage has often been misinterpreted to passivity instead of nonviolent resistance. 

He interprets the slapping on the cheek in view of the necessity of a blow on the right cheek being given as a backhanded slap rather than as a punch. Being backhanded was a blow met to degrade. Punching was something one did when they fought an equal. He believes Jesus was telling victims to communicate to their abusers that they had the same human value and dignity as their abusers. 

Wink interprets giving of cloak as well as tunic to indicate exposing the evilness of the system. Only the poorest of the poor were being stripped of everything in the time of Jesus. By the time someone was suing them for their tunic instead of their land, they had nothing. By walking out of court naked, the victim would shock his abusers as well as expose the true result of their actions. In that society the naked person was not the one on whom shame was put but rather the one who was looking upon the naked. 

Wink interprets going the second mile to be a way in which the oppressed Israelites could take the initiative against their Roman oppressors. Roman soldiers were allowed to impress service on civilians and force them to carry their pack for a mile. To carry the pack a second mile would be to put the soldier in a position of possible punishment. Perhaps he would be put on barley instead of wheat, made to stand outside of the officers’ tent holding a lump of dirt, flogged or a number of other punishments. Whatever the case, the soldier wouldn’t know what was happening to him as a result of the Jew’s “generosity”. Wink calls us to consider the humor of the scene of a Roman soldier begging a Jew to give him his pack back! 

This interpretation is about finding a way to resist evil without becoming evil in the process of doing so. By exposing the injustice of the system room may be created for just change.  

Well, that’s that! I have much more to say on the topic, but it’s time to hit the road running. I have far more to accomplish this week than I can imagine doing.

May the grace of God be with us as we go throughout our day and resist evil in the ways Jesus teaches! Consider His life. Never did He condone it. Always did He resist it. Let us do the same, but without becoming evil in our means of doing so!

*Most information in this answer is taken from pages 98-111 of The Powers that Be: Theology for a New Millennium, Walter Wink, 1998.

A Pearl of Great Price

I have been thinking about how Revelations says that the twelve gates of heaven are made of pearls. One pearl for each gate. Pearls.com says that natural pearls form when, “an irritant – usually a parasite and not the proverbial grain of sand – works its way into an oyster, mussel, or clam. As a defense mechanism, a fluid is used to coat the irritant. Layer upon layer of this coating, called ‘nacre’, is deposited until a lustrous pearl is formed.”

Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is like a pearl. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:45-46

I have been considering that Paul and Barnabas said, “We must endure many hardships to enter the kingdom of God”. Acts 14:22

Paul also said that the way of the cross is so simple that it is a stumbling block to the religious and offense to those who are learned.

“Jews demand signs and Greeks search for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:22-24

The world looks different to those who are being saved. Faith changes life.

Jesus promises a hundred times as much as I had before, but then He adds, “along with persecution”. Mark 10:30

He says I cannot be His disciple unless I carry a cross. When He said this, a crucifix with someone dying or dead hanging on it was likely within sight. If not literally, certainly each of His immediate hearers could clearly remember the last time they saw one. (Matthew 10:38, Matthew 16:24, Luke 14:27, Mark 8:34)

Yet the way is not hard.

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Survival of the Fittest

I have been listening to a podcast about animals, and the phrase “survival of the fittest” is brought up consistently. It is no secret to anyone that in the natural world it is the strong that survive while the weak perish. The fastest lion will always eat the slowest gazelle. One must always be at worst the second slowest gazelle to survive.

I can’t help but wondering if survival of the fittest was what Paul was talking about when he said that all creation has been groaning since the beginning of time. I love this passage in Romans 8:19-22.

“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

When Paul said creation was hoping to be liberated and to share in the freedom and glory of God’s children, I wonder if he meant we are all waiting for the day when everyone survives not just the fastest – or at least the least slow.

I say this because the kingdom of God works differently. In the kingdom of God it is the weak who are strong. Jesus said to the Apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul concludes, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. “ 2 Corinthians 12:9

Jesus instructs His disciples:

“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45

There is the ever present warning that we must be as a child in order to enter the kingdom of God. For Jesus said:

“Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:17 (similar passages are found in Matthew 18:3, Matthew 19:14 and Mark 10:15)

Does creation groan waiting for the day when the weak not only survive but thrive? Does the animal kingdom cry out for the day when the strong will not eat the weak? Do snakes cry out for the day when eagles will not eat them? Do birds cry out for the day when snakes will now swallow them? Is every one wanting this rat race of pain to finally end?

After speaking of all creation, Paul says in reference to us, “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Romans 8:23-25

We can wait for the day when the physical creation stops groaning patiently and with great confidence knowing this day WILL come. In the meantime, remember that there is rest for the weary human being!

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Perhaps today you will go to a job that seems like it is simply a race for the “survival of the fittest. As you do so, rest in Him. Know His grace is sufficient for us! Be patient. Wait confidently. Hope with great assurance that some day ALL the weak will thrive!

“The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious”

Isaiah 11:6-10