Matthew 5:38-48

These last ten lines are the end of the chapter. I feel like I have been dragging through this chapter forever. Finally, the speech reaches a point where it is unified in theme for ten lines.

It starts out speaking of “an eye for an eye” which was the idea that if someone took out their enemies eye, their punishment would be that they would lose an eye. Unlike many people today, I actually believe in justice. I don’t believe in any kind of “relativism” when it comes to basic morality. This is because if you talk to very young children, they all seem to have some kind of sense off justice that strikes me as being consistant. Only later on when they learn to lie, and other more advanced topics do they reach a point where, “everything is relative.”

If anyone tells you this, threaten their interests. Immediately you will see that they don’t feel that everything is relative when it comes to them. They will feel like the _deserve_ to be treated a certain way. This feeling is their sense of justice that they had tried to bury in a pile of verbiage and bullshit.

No, I don’t feel like there are any stone tablets that have “justice” written on them. To me, justice is just a feeling people have when they feel that things in the world are not right.

Again, this feeling is encoded in ancient law.

However, Jesus isn’t here to give us any new laws. He’s not a lawyer. We saw that last time when he told people that they should refuse to swear. Instead, just tell the truth. I really like this. Plain and simple.

What does he say to do when you have been wronged? Well, it seems like it quite silly. He says that if someone hits you on one cheek turn the other one as well. He goes on to itemize many other examples of the same idea. My favorite one is that if someone will sue you to take your shirt, give him your coat as well.

Definitely not loving court system. I don’t know what Christ was thinking when he said these things. Again, things break down when you get to the _why_ of things. However, I have come up with my own explanation.

I have thought about getting sued, and I came to the conclusion that it is better to give the other side whatever they want; it’s better to settle out of court. Courts are arbitrary, whimsical when it comes to judgements. They are pretty consistant in that they take a lot of time and always subject you to boring, over-wrought bullshit. They never say anything straight of like it is. Having to listen to all that shit drives me batty. Better to just give in early.

It’s less stressful. Plus what is more valuable than you own time and piece of mind? Nothing. The only reason you own things is that it makes you happy. If it doesn’t then it is like Buddha said. It is like seeing a glowing red, metal ball. Pretty colored lights. I want to pick it up. This is what property can do to you when you get sued. A wise one will drop the ball.

The same goes for all things. Resisting just creates more stress. So don’t.

The other breakdown is that it does not say _how_ you will not resist. It is natural to get angry when struck. How to keep your cool? I’d suggest meditation and mindfulness practices. But I could not find this anywhere in this chapter.

This is so frustrating to me because here you have this great advice, but no way to implement it. I know we are supposed to give it all up to God, but how? What do you DO? Perhaps chapter six will tell us.


3 Responses to “Matthew 5:38-48”

  1. equa yona Says:

    Nah, chapter six doesn’t give the instructions either.
    “this feeling is encoded in ancient law” The most ancient law that held sway for a long time was called the Code of Hammurabi. The “Lex Talionis” or ‘Law of the Claw'(eye for an eye, etc) was a BIG step forward from Hammurabi
    which basically said, if you screw up,”edah’!DEATH.
    Eye for an eye said, ‘look, you should only avange in like measure-don’t kill because he put out your eye, fer crikey’s sake!”.
    I gather you are a Lex Talionis sort and the “forgive seventy times seven” isn’t your cup of tea? Jesus was not a relativist when it comes to forgiveness. He is joe hardass. He doesn’t give you a ‘count to ten’ or ‘observe your breath’ type of teaching. He says ‘suck it up and forgive’. How do you do that? You just do. Lots harder than,’cut off their nuts if they fuck with your woman’ sort of justice, eh?

  2. Leroy Glinchy Says:

    The thing for me is that forgive is not well defined. Forgive actually means quite a few things all of them are similar but different.

    One definition of forgive is to say the words, “I forgive you” then not talk about it. This is nice for the other person, but what about me? I’m going to obsess about it, and the injury is going to torture me forever because I hold grudges.

    So, to me, this advice is worthless because it causes me more suffering. Better for me to let the person know how I feel and seek some kind of justice. Otherwise, I feel like a doormat.

    On the other hand, if I realize that the desire for revenge is a form of suffering, I’ll be motivated to give up on this kind of grudge. I’ll also find that I can use injuries to myself as a way of deeper understanding existence. It makes getting kicked around almost worth it. 🙂

    So to tell people to forgive, but not to define forgive nor to teach them how to forgive in their heart nor to give them any kind of lesson regarding the nature of reality nor telling them HOW to forgive is quite useless to me.

    Other people may respond quite well to the “suck it up you baby” type of thing, but I have found that the type of people who tell this to me, when they are in pain, the shoe is on the other foot, and they don’t want to hear ME tell them to suck it up.

  3. equa yona Says:

    I wasn’t suggesting that you suck it up. I was interpreting the Gospel into a sort crude vernacular. And of course you are right, some detailed instructions on how to apply what seems to be good advice is generally missing throughout these writings. In some cases it is downright unhealthy to say “forgive” without allowing or assisting processing of feelings as in the case of incest survivors. I think the thing in the Gospels is that it gives instructions and then show Jesus doing stuff, forgiving etc. Teaching by example, which doesn’t help a hell of a lot since he was supposed to be GOD- he didn’t need instructions. Oh well.

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