Wednesday 09 February 2022

Bible Book:

'And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.' (v. 41)

Matthew 5:40-42 Wednesday 9 February 2022

Psalm 73:1-14


Yesterday we saw Jesus change the command "an eye for an eye", to "turn the other cheek". He now continues with some other situations that were probably common for those listening and again reinterprets them. The two we have here feature giving someone who asks for your shirt your cloak as well, and walking an extra mile after being asked to walk one mile.

As in yesterday's reading, there is a challenge to the aggressor in both of these actions. In the first the image is of someone in debt who is taken to court so they can have their shirt taken from them. Our translations don’t do the story justice as when we read 'shirt' and 'coat' we picture our modern clothing. Here the passage is referring to the cloak and undergarments that someone would wear. By having one garment taken from them and then giving over the other it would have left the person naked. This action would have brought more shame on the person who has sued to take the person's clothes than the person left with nothing. Again, as yesterday it is a challenge to their aggression.

The command to walk the extra mile has a similar rationale: taking back control. Roman soldiers could force people to carry loads for them as they travelled. We see this when Simon of Cyrene is asked to carry Jesus’ cross at his crucifixion (Matthew 27:32). The aggressor may force you to travel one mile, but when you go an extra mile out of your own free will, the person  who thought who thought they were in control by making you do something now finds you have taken back control by choosing to go further yourself.

Jesus is speaking to a group of people who would have found themselves abused by those in power many a time and they are hearing something radical. It is a  way in which they can challenge those who think they are powerful without having to threaten violence themselves. It's a way of reclaiming their freedom from those who believed they were the ones who were free. We have seen Martin Luther King and others use similar ways of living to challenge injustice and they were inspired through teachings like these from Jesus.


To Ponder:

  • Have you ever been on a protest? What was the cause and why did you feel it was important to make a stand?
  • Is there a time when you have misused the power you have been given? Think about how you can act differently in those kind of situations.
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