Listen to or read a reflection on the reading for Monday 15 June 2020, Matthew 5:38–42. A short service of prayer is also available.
Jesus said: ‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.Matthew 5:38-42
This week’s readings in our services of Daily Prayer are all taken from Jesus’ great Sermon on the Mount. Jesus’ teaching begins with The Beatitudes and goes on to consider many different aspects of the Christian life, including how we should prioritise our relationship with God over the temptations of worldly wealth and success.
Today’s reading contains a difficult message for many of us, just as it was a difficult message for Jesus’ first century Jewish audience. In the Jewish scriptures, that we know as the Old Testament, there was an ancient tradition of justice being represented by the gaining of vengeance. Indeed, this reading begins with Jesus quoting from three key books in the Old Testament: Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
Of course, the concept of vengeance is contrary to all the teachings of Jesus. Jesus guides us away from this primeval model of justice. But, where he leads us, is still seen by many as the path of weakness and submission. Not only does he urge us to set aside the old ways, he goes on to urge a level of generosity that is counter-cultural to many of us.
For Jesus, the notion of Charity begins at home is synonymous with meanness – meanness with our worldly wealth, and meanness of spirit. We have all avoided the beggar, making many excuses to justify our unwillingness to help those poorer than ourselves. Unfortunately, many church committees have been similarly mean of spirit when it comes to considering our duty to support those who live in unimaginable poverty.
So, today, in our short reading from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is challenging us to set aside those old ways and take up the challenge of living the true Christian life.
Where does that leave you and me?
That is the question for us to reflect upon today.