Friday, August 13, 2010

Bend Over and Take It Like Jesus

We are working our way through the Sermon on the Mount in the Book of Matthew. It has been an interesting journey. We have seen that Jesus wants people to obey God's laws, but then Jesus goes on to say that the laws should be expanded in a way which completely disowns His own involvement (as God) in establishing the original laws. Moving on, Jesus overturns God's position on God-sanctioned vows. What other commands from God will Jesus corrupt? Well, there is one more in this study.

Bend Over and Take It Like Jesus
Imagine living in a world which was essentially unimportant, where all of the wise people were living for the next world to come; a new world where everyone who makes it there will live together in peace and harmony forever. OK, so maybe you do not have to imagine very hard if you are already familiar with Christianity.

Christians look forward to a happy, eternal afterlife, but doing so should have profound consequences. Jesus unflinchingly lays out some of these consequences in the Sermon on the Mount.

Let us start with Matthew 5:38-41. The first verse is particularly interesting. In Matthew 5:38, Jesus says:
"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'" NIV
Just like in a previous study on murder, adultery, and divorce, Jesus mentions the “eye for eye” as if He had no responsibility for it. However, those words came from God (Exodus 21:23-25, Leviticus 24:19-20, Deuteronomy 19:21), and because Jesus is part of the Trinity, from Jesus Himself.

As Jesus continues in Matthew 5:39-41, He says that you should not resist any evil person, but instead you should willingly let that person beat you, take your stuff, and make you do whatever such a person asks. When put in context with Matthew 5:38, this means that you should not seek retribution at all when someone wrongs you.

What? That is just utter nonsense! Unless, of course, this life has no value. Unless the only thing that matters is making it into a blessed afterlife. Forget about justice, even for murderers (as “life for life” is part of the eye for eye verses). You must show perfect mercy, and let God handle the ultimate justice in the afterlife. That seems to be the message that Jesus is communicating, as we will continue to see.

Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 5:42 that you should give to anyone who asks, and let anyone borrow whatever they want. The Luke 6:30 version adds that you should not ask for the return of whatever you give someone.

Such an approach could lead you to be destitute and unable to provide for your family. However, if this life does not really matter compared to the eternal afterlife, then it does not matter if you die penniless. It only matters that you die saved.

Finally, Jesus ups the ante even further in Matthew 5:43-48, saying that you should love your enemies and persecutors.

Do not stand up for yourself. Do not offer resistance. Do not retaliate. Just bend over and take it. These passages further imply that you should not seek any justice. Therefore, in a way this contradicts what Jesus had just said about following the Law, because there are prescribed punishments for transgressors in the Law, such as an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

This only makes sense if the context is that this life does not matter, and that all of your earthly efforts should be directed at the afterlife; that your house, your car, your money, your family, and even your life is not anywhere near as important achieving the blessed afterlife. As we have discussed in other studies, it appears that Jesus was preaching that God's judgement and His associated eternal Kingdom was coming soon. The odds were that you would not have to suffer, or worry about material goods, much longer anyway. Or at least that was the plan.

So, for those of you who believe in and follow Jesus, I have a challenge for you. Calculate how much money you need to live. I mean the bare minimum; Ramen noodles for three meals a day, money for the most humble place you can live, no vacations or presents, etc. Once you have that figure, subtract that from your take-home pay. Then, send me that remainder amount. That is right. I am requesting it from you, and Jesus says you should give it to me (Matthew 5:42). You can email me at for my address to send the checks.

Go ahead. You know this life does not really matter.

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