How far shall we go? To what degree do we, in good humour and good faith, face insult, perceived wrong, and out right hostility? The human reaction, and one that the “me centred” society in which we live would support is “not far.” In fact, I need to stand up for my rights, my honour, my self-esteem . . . “my, my, my.”
Yet Jesus put forward a different example. He was wounded for the transgressions of others. He suffered insult without uttering a reply (Matthew 26:63). This should not be surprising to us. Jesus had made this approach an ideal in His public teaching. Matthew 5:38-48 reads, “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.”
Do not respond to evil with evil. Do not shirk unpleasant responsibilities. Go beyond what is required or asked of you. A hard order! But, one He put into practice, even to death.
It has been said that under the Roman occupation, a soldier could compel a non-Roman citizen to carry his kit for a mile. This was a deeply unpopular expectation, and one which accentuated the conquered, and subservient status of a proud Hebrew people. But even this “institutional” discrimination was not exempted in Jesus’ model. In fact, a second mile was metaphorically (and indeed actually) set as a standard.
And to such a person who wronged you, whether in a slap on the cheek, or the taking of your property; what should be your attitude to them? Forgiveness. Matthew 18:21-22 reads, “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”
If we are to be true disciples we need to move beyond the “me” and the “my.” We need to remember the “He” and the “Thy.” Jesus literally took up His cross. Let us at least in attitude bear ours.