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When people have joined Jesus in the way he exerts his power in the world, what can we expect? What kind of “salt” and “light” (Matthew 5.13-16) can we expect them to be? In what way are they a contrast to the world around them? How do they bring flavor and insight to the world?
When we have an inside condition that is shaped by a life with Jesus, how will we respond when we have been wronged? Will our response look different from what normally takes place in society?
In this section, Jesus pictures the inner life of how his followers will react when wronged or put upon. As I wrote in yesterday’s article, this is not a new law. Rather, it pictures a new inner self, one that is directed and given power by Jesus Spirit within us.
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5.38-42).
There are different kinds of justice available to people who have been wronged. Distributive justice literally distributes an equal cost to the harm that has been done. If someone takes your eye with some kind of harmful behavior, you are entitled to take one eye, but exact no more revenge. In today’s world, people receive monetary recompense for harms that have been done.
Jesus operates a different kind of judicial system. He practices creative justice. He absorbed the hurt of our wrongs on the cross and prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23.34).
Creative justice literally creates something in the heart of the person who receives it. As I often say, “Jesus defeats his enemies by making them his friends.” His justice creates friends who want to be like him.
Jesus’ inside condition is one of love and forgiveness. People who become Jesus’ friends will begin to exhibit a similar inside condition of love and forgiveness.
Four Examples of Creative Justice
People with an inside condition like Jesus will approach life differently from the world around us. Jesus presents four examples of how his followers will respond in a different manner to that of the world’s system.
Please remember, these are not four new laws that are more extreme than the Old Testament teaching. Rather, they are illustrations of how people with a new heart may be expected to respond.
(1) Matthew 5.39 – “But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.”
A slap on the cheek in Jesus’ day was a supreme insult. The slap raises the question of what we will do when people insult or disrespect us. A person with an inside condition that is controlled by Jesus will absorb the hurt and not slap back with disrespect in return.
Josh Monk was a very influential leader at Maywood Baptist Church until he died from brain cancer a few years ago. Josh gave us a saying, “Don’t talk about it, be about it.” I actually think that saying originated with his former life that was lived quite apart from Jesus. If someone disrespected him, he was ready for action not talk.
Jesus changed Josh’s heart and the saying also changed in meaning. The “being about it” became to Josh a way of forgiveness. Josh developed what he called a “Jesus pass.” When he was offended, he would mimic pulling out a slip of paper and handing it to the offending party. He would say, “You just got a Jesus pass.”
Josh did not do this because of some external law making him perform in such a way. He did it, because he experienced Jesus’ creative justice that made him into a new person. His inside condition allowed him to respond in this manner like Jesus.
(2) “And if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well” (Matthew 5.40).
If you obtained a loan in Jesus’ day, you may pledge the “shirt off of your own back” as a promise to pay it back. The possessions of a poor person may possibly be only a shirt and an outer cloak. If you failed to pay, the creditor could sue and get your shirt. They were legally prohibited from getting your cloak by the law.
People with an inside condition that is transformed by a relationship with Jesus may choose to heed Paul’s advice about lawsuits. “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?” (1 Corinthians 6.7).
Again, this reflects an inside condition that responds in a way that contrasts with the normal way people act. It is an example of creative justice that is extended for the purpose of being “salt” and “light” in a world that needs our influence.
Once again, Jesus is not setting down a new law that we must follow in all instances. The most appropriate thing to do may be to resist a creditor in court. The teaching of Jesus leads us to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit in all areas, then we will be living according to the “spirit” of this example.
(3) “And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile” (Matthew 5.41).
In Jesus’ day a Roman soldier could press you into service and force you to carry his baggage for one mile. He could not force you to carry his goods any further.
As someone who has an inside condition in alignment with Jesus, they may choose to be a contrast to the rest of people in your country. They may choose to carry the soldier’s goods a second mile or more.
Soldiers don’t compel citizens in America to carry their duffel bags. However, employers may compel us to work overtime or do extra duties, sometimes without extra pay. There are many “second mile” opportunities in the workplace.
If we operate under the principle of distributive justice, we will demand our “rights” to be fulfilled on the job. If we operate under the creative justice that is designed to reveal Jesus’ nature and character, we may choose to do the task to the best of our ability and with a positive attitude.
Paul exhorted servants to “do the will of God from the heart. Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women, knowing that whatever good we do, we will receive the same again from the Lord” (Ephesians 6.6-8).
Many years ago, I was entering a hospital at the same time a nurse was going on duty. As I held the door open for her, I noticed she was carrying a Bible. I said, “Great book you are reading.”
She responded with a smile and an inner glow that I remember 35 years later, “He’s my Guy!”
God has called his children to live in the workplace like I imagine this woman did. She would be the kind of nurse and employee that everyone would want to have working for them. This only comes from an inner life that is in a vibrant contact with our loving Lord Jesus.
(4) “Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5.42).
The distributive justice person believes in giving a fair wage for an honest day’s work. This person does not cheat his workforce, but gives what is due. This is well and good, even honorable. If all employers took this approach toward their employees, economic systems of injustice would be lessened.
The creative justice person believes that person flying the cardboard “flag” on the street corner needs a break, too. Scott and Dawn Stoner are excellent examples of people who work, so that they can give away food, clothing, and someday a portable shower to the homeless. Scott and Dawn call these people “house-less,” not homeless.
I just finished listening to an interview with Coach Jake Taylor and Donna Mills. Donna, Mike Hempel, Lance Allenbaugh, the Stoners and more are actively working in a “Hand’s Up” ministry.
You can find the interview with Donna Mills at this link mwlisten.wordpress.com. I can’t emphasize enough how inspiring this interview will be for you. It is 38 minutes long and well worth every minute of listening time.
Donna and her friends in ministry are a perfect example of being “salt” and “light” as a contrast to the customary behaviors of people. They serve, NOT because of some outside force, but out of an inner life filled with the joy of Jesus Christ.
Dear Jesus, thank you for winning our hearts while we were distant from you. Thank you for the activity of your Spirit in our lives that gives us dreams like the one you have given to Donna Mills, Scott and Dawn Stoner, Mike Hempel, Lance Allenbaugh and others. Please fill us with your Spirit that gives creative justice to others.