This email resumes our six-month series looking at the Sermon on the Mount from a workplace angle: continue to enjoy the ride!
Life and work present you with any number of contexts in which to be insulted. You can be snubbed or passed over for promotion. You can be spoken to in a patronising or condescending manner. People can be just plain rude or offensive. Some insults are accidental and as a result of ignorance or misunderstanding, others may be calculated, deliberate and sustained.
Life and work are also places where you have rights. You do have legal rights as well as more subtle or contractual rights. Again, these may be infringed, ignored or challenged. You may find yourself being taken to task over some rights issue. Life and work will present you with choices to serve your purposes or those of others, to do as you please or to be as helpful as possible.
In some contexts, such as those we have outlined, the natural reaction is to retaliate or defend yourself when insulted, stand up for your rights and in some cases further your own path. But on these steps of the narrow path, Jesus advocates non-retaliation, not standing on your rights and going out of your way to help.
When we reach his teaching about turning the other cheek, letting someone take your cloak or going the second mile it appears like a recipe for being trampled all over, abused, taken for granted and despised.
We cannot go into all the background of Jesus’ teaching here but it is worth noting that the original law of ‘tit for tat’ was to limit retaliation to fair proportions. Jesus, however, says don’t retaliate at all.
If you think for a moment about how things can go from bad to worse it is often because a cycle of constant retaliation develops. It goes hand in hand with increasingly standing on one’s own rights and a growing culture of each person being out for their own ends.
How would it be if someone did not retaliate? How would it be if someone did not sue back or decided to go out of their way to serve? Vicious cycles would be broken, conflict would be nipped in the bud, progress would be made.
Such people would stop the rot like salt. Such people would be peace-makers. Such people would settle matters rather than escalate them. Such people would be persecuted sometimes because of insulting and false accusations and they would also be inexplicable.
I cannot tell you exactly how to handle the insults, injustices or oppressive behaviour which may come your way except that non-retaliation, waiving rights and going beyond expectation is very likely to break the power of bad practice. Only the poor in spirit can do this, only the meek and, as we shall see, only those who know how to trust in the justice, righteousness and provision of their Heavenly Father. This will make sense as the sermon proceeds. You can’t just take one bit on its own; it’s a path not a step.
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
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