Translating Jesus to Today

Matthew 5:38-48

In today’s world, it’s rare for someone to ask you to walk two miles. Nobody has asked for my coat lately, and I can’t remember the last time I was slapped on the cheek. When pastors deal with Matthew 5:38-48, they tend to wax historical and provide details like the Roman laws governing how far you had to carry a pack and how much the ancient people hated to use their left hand. This misses the point. Jesus always draws his examples from the daily lives of the people he was talking to. They knew what it was like to be a minority people group governed by an oppressive occupying force. 


Jesus wasn’t born in Rome, he was born a short distance south of modern day Syria. He could have preached revolution, instead he preached love. But then he went further to speak of a costly love. A love that turns the other cheek and goes the second mile with people you would rather ignore. For those of us who aren’t living below the poverty line, this means helping those who are. For those of us who don’t live in an oppressed land, it means taking in those who are refugees from places like Syria and El Salvador.


“For if you love only those who love you, what reward can you expect?” (Matthew 5:46)


Jesus uses the word ‘you’ a lot. In every line, he speaks about the loving response to an everyday situation. When people get historical and find loop holes, Jesus says, “But you must do…” What follows always demonstrates the power of love as a choice. You choose to help your neighbor, even when there is nothing in it for you. You choose to forgive those that have wronged you. You must give money to those who beg. In every moment of life, you must accept the challenge to do what Jesus would do. Wesleyan people call this, ‘perfection in love.’  It means, choosing love.

I was in prison and you visited me.
Epiphany 7