38 “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth [Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21]. 39 But I say to you that you must not oppose those who want to hurt you. If people slap you on your right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well. 40 When they wish to haul you to court and take your shirt, let them have your coat too. 41 When they force you to go one mile, go with them two. 42 Give to those who ask, and don’t refuse those who wish to borrow from you.
When Jesus lived there, Palestine was an occupied land. It seethed with hatred of Roman occupiers (and even of Hebrews with different views or status). Roman soldiers could legally slap you, take your shirt or force you to carry a load. They were the “enemy.” Jesus called his followers to act graciously toward even those enemies. “No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.” (Matthew 5:42, The Message)
Lord Jesus, teach me how to seek forgiveness from others, how to offer it even to enemies—and how to do both in healthy ways that heal, rather than suppressing, my pain and hurt. Amen.
In seminary, I toured a local mosque while studying Islam. A member of the mosque said to me, “If I wasn’t born into Islam, I would have been a Christian.” When I asked him why, he said “Because Jesus teaches peace, you know, turn the other cheek rather than the eye for the eye stuff. That really sums up God to me."
At the time of this tour, I was new to studying Islam and held a bias that Muslims were more of an eye-for-an-eye type of people based on terrorist news stories. This man’s comments seemed inconsistent with what I thought Islam taught.
As I learned more in that class, I realized the Quran is a sacred text teaching peace too. In fact, it is a prophetic call to behave better than people were behaving 600 years after the life of Jesus. The angel Gabriel spoke to Muhammad, instructing him to teach the ethics of Jesus again because people had already forgotten and drifted away.
In the sacred texts of most religions, through archetypes, stories, parables, wisdom, and epic tales, humans are taught how to behave in peaceful ways. In our current world, billions of people are reading these texts, but many are not behaving in a manner that contributes to peace for all.
Jesus teaches “Love your neighbor as yourself” as a recipe for peace. Peace comes when we value the life of another as much as we value our own life, understand the suffering of others as much as we notice our own suffering, and work to provide the best for others just as we work to provide the best for ourselves. I think Jesus was teaching us that the path to inner peace and world peace is found in loving others.
2020 has offered many opportunities to see things differently than we did before. Might this be another opportunity in human history to raise our consciousness and behave in a way that moves us further towards peace and love?
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