Sermon on Matthew 5:38-48 for Epiphany +7 A, February 19, 2017
[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.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Once, when I was young, I was riding a horse at camp. There was a garden hose laying across the area I was riding through. The horse balked at the hose in obvious fear. I wondered if it might rear up or buck me off.
The horse was acting out of what they call a fixed action pattern response – the hose resembled a snake. Horses evolved to fear snakes. It is a survival mechanism. It is an automatic, instinctive response.
And so is the instant urge to strike back, when someone slaps us on the cheek.