And if someone takes you to court to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well. And if one of the occupation troops forces you to carry his pack one mile, carry it two miles.
[This is a continuation of Jesus’ teaching about true justice. He is explaining to his disciples how they can be “more faithful than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees in doing what God requires.” (See Day 23)].
Jesus continues to explain how his disciples should react in these two situations where there is conflict and enmity. In both of these cases it seems natural that one might feel victimized and resentful. Yesterday Jesus said that we should not take revenge when someone slaps us, that we should stay calm and rise above it (See Day 31).
As with the example of slapping, these are not a huge issues. In the first example, you are not being sued for your house, just your shirt. You are not being asked to give up all your world possessions, just your coat. In the second example you are not being asked to do anything really difficult, just to carry a soldier’s pack for one extra mile.
I think Jesus is saying don’t sweat the small stuff. Give the guy your shirt and coat. Maybe he needs them more than you, maybe not. It doesn’t matter. If you have friends they will surely see to it that you are fully clothed. As for the soldier’s pack, carry it for two miles instead of one. Maybe the soldier is in pain. Maybe he is having back problems. Maybe he’s just tired. It’s not the end of the world. Stop looking at yourself as a victim and reclaim your free will. Giving is good for the soul. Do these things with the love of God in your heart and you may turn your enemies into friends.
When you are kind to those who persecute you, you stop the cycle of violence. This is how you act out being a peacekeeper. In the 1960s there were hippies who demonstrated against the Vietnam War and they were often arrested and beaten even though they were unarmed. They retaliated with flower power. Instead of picking up weapons, they picked flowers and gave them to the soldiers who were sent to intimidate and disburse them. The hippies hoped that the soldiers would see the light. They hoped the flowers would remind them of who they really are created to be. They hoped the soldiers would drop their guns and come over to their side.
A lot of conservative people got really mad about those kids handing out flowers to their oppressors. They said it was disrespectful. They were afraid to listen to the call for peace because they were too terrified of the advancing “red menace” (a reference to communists). But in the Beatitudes Jesus says “Happy are those who work for peace; God will call them his children. Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them.” I think the hippies were a lot happier than the conservatives.
This scripture has given me new appreciation for what the hippies were doing. I think they were doing exactly what God wants – reaching out with love and peace and happiness and earthiness and trying to make friends out of enemies. With flowers. Peace, man. Groovy. Out of sight. Jesus rocks. Righteous!!
What does this scripture say to you?