I have given to beggars, and then discovered they were con men.
My wounded ego wants justice, while my heart wonders, “What’s the point?”
In Matthew 5:38, Jesus expounds upon the “Lex Talionis,” saying, “You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil…” Turn the other cheek… Give your tunic and your cloak… Go an extra mile… Give to the one who begs.
Who does Jesus think he is? In Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, it’s God who says, “Life for life, eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.”
How does he not “abolish the law?” He said, “I have not come to ‘abolish,’ but to ‘fulfill.’”
Doesn’t Jesus care about me, and injustice, and making a better world? What’s the point?
Israel was an occupied country—occupied by men who had perfected human torture in the form of crucifixion—and Jesus says, “Turn the other cheek.”
And if you gave to all who begged from you, you’d end up with nothing and look like St. Francis of Assisi or Mother Teresa… or perhaps, end up crucified.
The Roman Catholic Church has dealt with this crisis by decreeing that these verses only apply to monks and nuns.
Dispensationalists claim that these verses only apply to “Messianic Israel.”
The Reformers argued that they apply to us as individuals, but not as “officers” acting on behalf of a “government,,” like a soldier or a police officer.
Christian pacifists argue that all of that is silly.
Most notable among this group was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who, in 1937 in Germany, published his renowned commentary on the Sermon on the Mount titled The Cost of Discipleship.
Jesus says, “Turn the other cheek,” then he says, “Love your enemies… so that—[in order that, for this reason that]—you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. …You therefore must be perfect, (teleio, “finished”) as your heavenly Father is perfect (teleio, “finished”).”
Do you remember where Jesus was perfected (“finished,” from teleio)?
They struck his cheeks in the high priest’s courtyard. They took, and he gave… his tunic and his cloak. He bore his enemies’ cross more than a mile, but even to hell, lifted his voice and said, “Father forgive,” and “It is finished (teleio).”
Scripture says that he “learned obedience through what he suffered.”
He never sinned, and yet he was perfected by bleeding for you, as if his wounds are his perfection.
Remember what he showed his friends upon rising from the dead? His wounds.
St. Paul writes, “I bear on my body, the marks of Christ.”
For Paul, those wounds no longer meant shame,, as if he had failed.
Those wounds were treasure, as if God had succeeded.
So, do you want to be made in the image of God… or not?
“Turn the other cheek… so that you may be sons of your Father,” says Jesus, the Son of God.
Maybe sacrificial love is not good for what it produces.
Maybe everything else is good for producing sacrificial love… in you.
Once, I spoke truth in love at great cost to me and many others.
A friend asked, “Was it worth it?”
I think this is the proper answer: “No. It wasn’t worth it. It was it.”
Maybe our wounds are not valuable for what they produce.
But everything else is valuable for producing those wounds.
Every wound on your body is a wound on the body of Christ.
They only mean shame for as long as you hide them from him.
Every wound is an invitation to Love; every wound is a door leading to Life.
A body is bound together at the wounds, where one member bleeds into the next—the life is in the blood.
Jesus is the Life, and he fulfills the Lex Talionis.
No parent wants their child to live by the Lex Talionis, but every parent employs the Lex Talionis to teach their children how to live—to teach their children that what one does to others, they also do to God, themselves, and to all. That’s justice. That’s righteousness.
Jesus is the Life that is taken; Jesus is the Life that is given; and Jesus is even the decision to give. Jesus is the logic of Love; Jesus is the Life that circulates in the River of Life that flows from the throne and throughout all the members of The Body.
Jesus transforms the Lex Talionis from a description of Hell into a description of Heaven.
When Love is only a law, it burns like Hell (Gehenna to be precise).
But when Love is a Life, who sits on the throne in the sanctuary of each and every soul, he binds all things together, and every soul experiences ecstasy—that’s justice; that’s righteousness.
Perhaps you were born into this world to learn to love—Sacrificial Love; “In this is Love.”
Never use Love for some other reason; however, Love delights in using you, not because he “needs” to, but because he wants to share with you his joy.
Is it worth it? No. It IS it.
In 1944, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was implicated in a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler.
He failed as a pacifist, and he failed as a militant.
However, he loved everyone wherever he was imprisoned, including his Nazi guards who would smuggle his letters out of his cell and to a listening world.
He was hung on the gallows—a “tree”—just hours before the allies liberated the camp.
Bonhoeffer failed as a pacifist, and Bonhoeffer failed as a militant; but Jesus did not fail in making Dietrich Bonhoeffer the very image and likeness of God.
That’s the point.
And who does Jesus think he is? The Word of God.