INSIGHTS FROM BONHOEFFER AND LEWIS ON THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT

The Superior Righteousness of the Kingdom
Vengeance (Matt. 5:38-42)

. THE FIFTH ANTITHESIS: NON-RETALIATION (5:38-42)

In this instance, striking the person's cheek means to "strike with the open hand" (A/G:741).

"The first illustration refers to someone striking 'the right cheek.' This is apparently more than merely a physical slap of the cheek. The specifying of the right cheek may mean a blow with the back of the hand (assuming the striker is right-handed), and thus make the personal insult even more serious."(WBC:131).

What does it mean to turn the other cheek? It "means to avoid retaliation and instead to put oneself intentionally in a condition of continuing vulnerability. Jesus, of course, supremely modeled this attitude in the passion narrative." (WBC:131).

It is interesting to note that RWP claims that Jesus did anything but turn the other cheek at His trial. Now it seems unlikely that Jesus would command us to turn the other cheek and then at the very moment when He is being mistreated, He retaliates. Maybe we need to understand what Jesus says in a different light. Did Jesus strike dead those who had physically abused Him?

On the other hand, did He point out the evil that they were committing, or did He remain totally silent throughout His entire trial?



  • Compliance with Unreasonable Requests (5:40-41)

  • Simple Charity (5:42)

    According to Jesus what should be our responses to the person who asks for something or who wants to borrow from us?

    According to v. 42, when should we NOT give to that person? In other words, what exceptions or qualifications does Jesus attach to His command here?

    "This verse takes further the line of thought in the preceding verses by teaching a charitable response to all who may ask for something or who may ask to borrow. In these illustrations, it is no longer a matter of response to mistreatment, or even to forced conduct, but to straightforward requests. The only other passage in the NT where the verb danizein ('to borrow, lend') occurs is in Luke 6:34-35, where the point is emphasized that one should lend to those from whom one does not expect to receive repayment. And this teaching occurs in connection with the command 'to love you enemies,' which is the form of Matthew's next antithesis. Quite probably, then, the present verse teaches not simply to give and lend but to do so even to one's enemies, to those from whom one has no hope of repayment. This interpretation is consistent with both preceding and following contexts in Matthew" (WBC:131).

    "'This is one of the clearest instances of the necessity of accepting the spirit and not the letter of the Lord's commands (see vv. 32, 34, 38). Not only does indiscriminate almsgiving do little but injury to society, but the words must embrace far more than almsgiving' (McNeile). Recall again that Jesus is a popular teacher and expects men to understand his paradoxes. In the organized charities of modern life we are in danger of letting the milk of human kindness dry up" (RWP 1:49).

    The emphasis, though, falls on giving, not on accountability. (CF).

    C.S. Lewis, when challenged by his secretary Walter Hooper after CSL gave a beggar ten pounds ("He is only going to take the money to buy drink"), said: "I know I would." Do I agree with Lewis on that? I don't know, but I do know that it is better to be generous in helping those in need more than getting it right.

    "But," you might claim, "I don't want to be taken advantage of." Remember, though, that only the kind, generous person is taken advantage of. If you are not being taken advantage of (at least some of the time), what is probably true about you?

    How do you respond to what RWP claims below?

      "The language of Jesus is bold and picturesque and is not to be pressed too literally. Paradoxes startle and make us think. We are expected to fill in the other side of the picture. One thing certainly is meant by Jesus and that is that personal revenge is taken out of our hands, and that applies to 'lynch-law.' Aggressive or offensive war by nations is also condemned, but not necessarily defensive war or defense against robbery and murder. Professional pacifism may be mere cowardice"(RWP 1:48).


    AND NOW FROM BONHOEFFER: From Revenge

    "He recognizes this saying, like the sixth commandment, as the veritable _________ of God. This law, like all the others, is not to be abrogated, but ___________________ to the last iota.

    The followers of Jesus for his sake renounce every personal _________________. He calls them blessed because they are meek. If after giving up everything else for his sake, they still wanted to cling to their own _________________, they would have ceased to ________________ Him.

    In the Old Testament personal rights are protected by a divinely established system of __________________. Every evil deed must be ___________. The aim of retribution is to establish a proper community, to convict and overcome evil and eradicate it from the body politic of the people of God.

    By exercising the right kind of retribution evil is to be overcome and thus the true disciple will prove himself.

    The right way to requite evil, according to Jesus, is not to _______________ it.

    This saying of Christ removes the Church from the sphere of politics and law. The Church is not to be a national community like the old Israel, but a community of believers without political or national ties. The old Israel had been both--the chosen people of God and a national community, and it was therefore his will that they should meet force with force. But with the Church it is different: it has abandoned political and national status, and therefore it must patiently endure aggression. Otherwise evil will be heaped upon evil.

    At this point it becomes evident that when a Christian meets with injustice, he no longer clings to his rights and defends them at all costs. He is absolutely free from possessions and bound to Christ alone.

    The only way to overcome evil is to let it run itself to a standstill because it does not find the resistance it is looking for. Resistance merely creates further evil and adds fuel to the flames. But when evil meets no opposition and encounters no obstacle but only patient endurace, its sting is drawn, and at last it meets an opponent which is more than its match.

    Evil becomes a spent force when we put up no resistance. . . . Violence stands condemned by its failure to evoke counter-violence. . . . when he requires me to go the other mile, I go willingly, and show up his exploitation of my service for what it is. . . . To his willingly renouncing self-defence, the Christian affirms his absolute adherence to Jesus, and his freedom from the tyranny of his own ego.

    We are concerned not with evil in the abstract, but with the evil person. . . . I am not to condone or justify aggression. Patient endurance of evil does not mean a recognition of its rights.

    There is no deed on earth so outrageous as to justify a different attitude. The worse the evil, the readier must the Christian be to suffer; he must let the evil person fall into Jesus' hands. [Although DB seems to violate this whenever he sought to blow up Hitler, how did he live up to these statements after he was put on trial just before he was put to death?]

    The Reformers . . . distinguished between personal sufferings and those incurred by Christians in the performance of duty as bearers of an office ordained by God, maintaining that the precept of nonviolence applies to the first but not to the second. In the second case we are not only freed from obligation to eschew violence, but if we want to act in a genuine spirit of love we must do the very opposite, and meet force with force in order to check the assault of evil. It was along these lines that the Reformers justified war and other legal sanctions against evil. But this distinction between person and office is whole alien to the teaching of Jesus. He says nothing about that. He addresses his disciples as men who have left all to follow him, and the precept of non-violence applies equally to private life and official duty." Questions: Is Bonhoeffer's solution realistic? Do you have any illustrations which history which might show that DB is right (other than the cross)?

    Regarding DB's assertion that governments should not go to war in self-defense, do you agree or disagree with this?