I love what I notice when I draw these readings.. They are particularly challenging with how they deal with conflict. Some read these reading as though to be a Christian requires that we be door mats and let people walk all over us.. Some read them a challenge to stand up for yourself (turning the other cheek is about encouraging someone to hit you rather than just backhand you, giving them your cloak as well as your coat, would leave you naked and show a landlord evicting you the injustice they are causing, taking a soldiers luggage an extra mile which they were not allowed to force you to, puts them very much on the back foot and highlights their laziness.) This second theory sits more comfortably with me usually but I noticed this time that the reading isn’t finished until you include giving to people who beg, and loaning to people who ask of it..
It got me to thinking.. What if the whole of this reading is about generosity. We know that Jesus chose to go to the cross and took it humbly and non violently to make a point or achieve a goal. He wanted to demonstrate that both he and God were not into revenge, “you have taken this from me so I will take back what you have taken”. He was definitely not weak he was willing to confront the officials in a very physical and violent way in the temple. But he was generous. Choosing to give of himself with no expectation of payback. He would bless, heal, give to be people on the way and keep walking.
Which brings us to the question why are people hitting us, taking our coat, or asking us to walk a mile? Sure they could be not very nice people who just like to use the power they have to only serve themselves. But often people are reacting from a place of pain or suffering, hurt and jealousy. I wonder if this was the first lesson for the disciples about this other way of thinking? You do have the power to pay back and seek revenge but choose to be generous and loving. Even in those difficult moments, they totally change the way the conversation goes from there, most of the time.