One of the most beautiful and challenging sections of scripture is the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus nails all of us in this discourse. He dismantles all the religious games we play with each other trying to make everyone think we have our act together. In that message Jesus was telling his followers to stop trying to fake everyone out with their attempts at self-righteousness.
No one gets a pass with Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said if we look at a woman with lust we have committed adultery. If we get angry with someone we are a murderer. If we curse someone we are guilty of hell. Nailed. Everyone. You and me, included.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus also said if our offending eye causes us to sin, gouge it out. If our hand causes us to sin, cut it off. This is radical stuff. Jesus also said, “If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer them the other side.”
I have noticed there are a lot of Christians out there with two good eyes and two good hands. It seems they might not be taking Jesus too literally. There appears to be in all of us the ability to be selectively obedient. We have the amazing ability to select how we choose to obey God’s Word and then make sure everyone else does it our way.
Recently, I heard someone say that a Christian should always turn the other cheek if attacked. As they spoke I noticed they were looking through two good eyes. I am guessing they had lived a perfect life and never looked at a member of the opposite sex with lust. I am also guessing that neither of their hands ever did anything harmful to another person. They seemed very intact as they lectured the other person.
As this conversation went on this person demanded the other Christian lay down their right to self-defense in any form. I found it ironic how talented we have become in telling each other how to live. We can even find scripture to back up our point of view.
In the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus made all these bizarre comparisons, I think he was really saying, “Would you be willing to live this way? For the sake of my kingdom, would you be willing to dislike the way you looked at that woman in lust so much that you would pluck out your eyes? Would you be so repelled by the way you touched another person you would be willing to cut off your hand?”
Jesus wasn’t asking us to pluck out our eyes or cut off our hands. He was asking if our love for him were so passionate that it would appear this radical. Thankfully, we have no evidence of Jesus’ first followers plucking or cutting anything. If that were the requirement to follow Jesus I would have lost both my hands at age two and both eyes during the early stages of puberty.
Regarding the turning of our cheeks to a violent act, I think the Lord was asking this question in the same vain as the questions he raised about offending eyes and hands. Would I be this willing for the sake of his kingdom?
I get nervous when we make a One-Size-Fits-All-Jesus and apply him to a One-Response-Fits-All-Circumstances. This lesser image of Jesus has been used to validate things Jesus never intended.