Monday 06/19/2017 – Offer no resistance … what?

Have you ever noticed that there are times when Scripture passages seem to contradict each other, leaving us a little confused?

Like the teaching about being the “salt of the earth” and shining like a light when it comes to our faith. But, on the other hand, we are urged to go into our room and pray to our Father in heaven quietly and alone, so as not to be seen by others.

Head scratcher, for sure.

Today’s Gospel gives us a bit of another …

(And yes, we will explain the monkey picture).

Jesus said to his disciples:

“You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”

So, if we get sued for something, we should not fight? Give in, give it up and then give them a bonus?

That seems odd to hear, especially since much is also written about seeking justice on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves for one reason or another. There are stories where we are asked to protect the weak, the poor, the widows who have no justice.

And yet, here we are told not to fight for justice, but to allow ourselves to be part of something that may be frivolous.

It made me think of some of our crazy litigation in America – the McDonald’s restaurant that was sued because a woman spilled hot coffee in her lap. (Maybe McD’s should have listened to Jesus … news reports indicated they had a chance to settle the case relatively cheaply at first; but they chose to take it to court, where they lost quite a bit more).

My current favorite is the lawsuit filed on behalf of a monkey who had taken his own selfie with a photographer’s camera it had stolen (see picture above). That lawsuit was brought forth by PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals … (I could do a whole ‘nother reflection on them, but that’s for a ‘nother time).

Applying the teaching today, the photographer should give PETA what they want and then double it and give it to the monkey – who would probably just tear it to pieces.

So what is this teaching all about?

This text from Matthew is bunched together with a few other tough teachings, such as a hard line on what the word adultery can actually apply to; and then there’s whole “love thy enemy” thing … really?

Yes, really.

Jesus is setting the tone for a new set of rules, a new ethic to live by.

It has to do with Christians adopting a “higher righteousness” … the ability to rise above the petty problems, the silly quibbles and quarrels.

He told this to an audience that had the classic “eye for an eye” mentality. In our current state of justice, a lot of that kind of logic still exists (as it pertains to a judge or jury’s quest to be fair), but we certainly don’t pluck out any eyeballs any more.

Originally, when that principle came along, it was a good thing. “Eye for an eye” was meant to stop an over-retaliation against someone who had done wrong against you. In a way, it was regulating revenge.

In our so-called enlightened age, the notion of seeking revenge is seen as a bad thing, not to be condoned by a civilized people. But it still happens … we know it does.

Jesus teaches us today that we have a choice. We don’t have to do what everyone else does. We are called to rise above … so, we must struggle to find a way to accept that life is not perfect and neither are we.

Injustice will come our way, and often does as our Church and her people have seen and experienced in sometimes brutal ways over the years.

Our goal – when it comes to justice – shouldn’t always be to file a lawsuit or to press charges against those who have harmed us.

Instead, our goal should be to shame our opponents with kindness and generosity. Shame them into having a change of heart.

Above all else, we should be praying for our persecutors, our enemies … that they will seek forgiveness, offer recompense and beg for God’s mercy.

And that is not a frivolous thing!

About the Author

Dan McFeely is a Carmel, Indiana, writer, communications business owner, book editor and a former professional journalist. Dan also works as an Adult Faith Formation Minister, currently serving as a spiritual director for the men's and women's Christ Renews His Parish program at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Carmel. He is a graduate of the Ecclesial Lay Ministry program offered by the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana and has studied theology at Marian University.

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9 Comments

  1. Thanks Dan. I have enemies who are going to be like that till the end of my life. But I pray for them very often. So I feel my soul very light and tranquil. How I wish that they would know that I am praying for them and that I wish them good and happiness.

  2. You left me wanting today. Your reflection and advisory was not up to your normal insightfulness. In all of existence, prayer has not achieved peace in the world. And scripture is replete with accounts of God directly influencing battles and outcomes of war. He set His sword against His enemies.
    Just what is different today?

  3. Thanks Dan, just what I needed, more contradictions to think about hahaha. Well written. The Church has had it’s own share of mistakes, cotradictions, and predictaments since inception – yet she still stands. Do we not have lawyers to protect her from our own government. Yes, most definitely a head scratcher. Keep up the good writing.

  4. Thanks, Dan. I love the humor you inject into your reflections! Recently, it has been my experience that trying to follow Christ is anything but frivolous. If I am ever confused on how I should act, I can take how the world tells us to act, and basically do the opposite! It’s funny how we are supposed to be an enlightened people, yet we are committing the same age-old sins against God: idolatry of money, fame, animals, nature, you name it, it happens. Revenge is definitely a new favorite that I think every Hollywood film embraces and runs with. Sexual objectification is the old stand-by, and other sins. The point is, it doesn’t take a pansy to be a Christian. All these things are easy to fall prey to, yet it is Christ who strengthens us. It takes great courage and great love. Thank you for your wise words!

  5. Thanks Dan for your wonderful reflection
    May the Lord God Almighty grant you more insights to enlight us on. About giving your other cheek for somebody to smack you sounds difficult but with God it is easy
    May God bless you

  6. Dan,

    Thank you for this wonderful reflection. I indeed pray for that “higher righteousness” . I have noticed that every time i turn “my other chic to somebody who slaps me on the face” that person changes somehow. It has worked for me but i must confess that it is a tough thing to do but again that’s why you rightly call it ” higher righteousness”.

    Jack,
    I have read your comment above and i am thinking the very reason why prayer has failed to achieve world peace is simply because people have failed “to raise above the petty problems , the silly quibbles and quarrels” as Dan rightfully notes above. And i have read that peace is given to men with whom the Lord is well pleased. But in a world that once rejected the son of God and where man is utterly sinful , only destruction and misery will be the order of the day unless man repents and lives in accordance with the word of God. In other words, we have to raise above the “petty problems , the silly quibbles and quarrels”.
    And God has not been missing in action. Didn’t He come in person through His Son Jesus Christ who was crucified and died on the cross!. Isn’t that a pure manifestation of God’s love for mankind? Isn’t that a battle He fought and concluded for once and for all?
    God fought His part of the battle and man has to fight is part too. The “HOW” is explained in today’s reflection.
    They say 1/3 of the world population are Christians. Imagine if these people adhered to what Dan has written above( and not necessary all scripture) , wouldn’t we achieve world peace?

  7. Excellent reflection good food for thought all around. Jack I have to agree with Judith but let me direct us to the parable of the Master that sowed His field of wheat. Afterward through the helpers and workers of the establishment the Master discovers that weeds were sown in with the wheat by an enemy of the Master. We all must wait until harvest time to fully understand Gods will for us. For now we simply do it to the best of our ability. Suffering contradiction does not necessarily mean suffering confusion when you turn these things over to God. Always look forward to this part of my day. God bless you and Praise be to God!!

  8. Jack, I feel your pain. I continue to pray for those whose hearts are filled with evil but I do not understand the extent and degree of human suffering. Many strive to live according to our Lord’s example and the social teachings of the Church. At the same time, however, I’m looking for a miracle or a sign of Divine Justice that is encouraging and sustaining for all who pray and for those who suffer. Am I missing God’s presence in the evils of today? I’m praying for a miracle.

  9. Hello, Dan. Thanks for the reflection. It appears I missed all the action by reading the posts and comments late, but I’ll still chip in.

    I’ve always struggled to comprehend the ” turn the other cheek” mantra. Maybe because I am science inclined and the analogy of prey vs predator always comes to mind.

    If we use Judith’s estimate of “1/3 rd of the world’s population are Christians”, then if there’s a great persecution and the prey don’t defend themselves, won’t that mean there might be an extinction of the species? There in lies my problem with Christians not evangelizing in word and/or action. If our population dwindles below a specific threshold we face the risk of surrendering this world to non-Christians.

    This world has never been our intended home anyway and we’re told in the Bible to not love the world and what it is in it. However, what about preserving enough of our numbers to ensure the unborn generations don’t come to meet a God-less world ? Won’t we be held accountable for allowing the non-believers to take control and mislead “the little ones”. If I remember correctly, the Bible cautions against that because “their angels continuously seek the face of the Father”.

    I know it’s unlikely I’ll get closure on this from this platform but I still put it up, not to challenge our faith but keep us searching to understand God as much as He allows us.

    @ Jack Findlay, I also sometimes still have a hard time understanding all the violence in the old testament. For some of it, I’ve gotten reasonable explanations, for others…not so much. But please don’t give up in your search to understand the nature of God. From my personal experince, understanding God is a process (possibly an eternal one?), not an event.

    God bless

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