38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41 Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:38-48
I admit I’d probably recoil from a request for borrowed money, but there’s a slight chance I might have a shred of empathy for someone who hates me, and want to pray for him, until he hits me. Then my natural inclination would not be to turn the other cheek, but to run away, then to write him off from the face of the earth. It’s possible I’d give the shirt off my back, if I had another one. But I don’t think Jesus is thinking of those with full closets. I can see myself going an extra mile for someone who forces me to go one though, but any more than that, I’d have to invoice him. Face it. We’re not inclined to do any of this, yet that’s how we set ourselves apart as Jesus set himself apart. But to pull it of you’ve got to be perfect. Small chance of that. Jesus set the bar even higher than the Pharisees of the day, to make it even harder to be righteous. What he’s counting on is us giving up–or giving in. You know how it is when you’ve been argued into a corner and you throw in the towel. Jesus knows that there’s a deep-down desire in all of us to be perfect–he put that there by the way–but there’s nothing we can do get there. He wants us begging for help, and when we do, we find ourselves amazingly willing to turn the other cheek, and digging deep for a 20 for a homeless guy at the corner. And like Stephen, appealing to the Father that he forgive those who rain down stones upon us.