Tag Archive for Thessalonians

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 look at destiny

Much of what God has destined me for, I am really excited about. I am excited about becoming like God (Romans 8:29), being holy and blameless in His presence (Ephesians 1:4), being adopted as His son (Ephesians 1:5) and being for the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:12).

I am a little less excited about 1 Thessalonians 3, which says I was destined for trials and persecution. Indeed Jesus Himself warns us constantly in the gospels that the life of a disciple will be one fraught with pain. We will have to lay down our entire lives (Luke 14:33); we may lose our entire families (Luke 12:51, Matthew 10:34); we may be called the devil (Matthew 10:24-25). The list could go on and on.

In 1 Thessalonians, Paul reminds his readers that he warned them frequently in person that they would under go persecution and “it turned out that way as you well know.” He had sent Timothy to strengthen and encourage them in their faith, “so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them.”

It’s not a fun fact, but it is a fact. You and I will have many trials in this life. Jesus has a good way of cheering us up! “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

It’s true that we will face trials and persecution here, but it is just as true that we are seated in the heavenly realms with Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6) We don’t submit to our trials. We don’t worship them. No, they are under our feet. We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us!

Today as we face each trial and every unkind word, let us remember Romans 8:35-39

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”