Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Getting Even Pt 2 (Coals of Fire)

In my last blog I discussed living like Jesus who resisted the temptation to retaliate against his enemies. We specifically looked at His teaching from Matthew 5:38-ff.

In this blog I want to continue looking at this passage from Jesus most famous of sermons the “Sermon on the Mount.”

40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
Matthew 5:40 (NIV)

 In this teaching it is easy to conclude several things. One there is a case against the defendant. Two, since the suit is seeking the person’s tunic we can assume the defendant presumably poor. Obviously if the defendant had more possessions the plaintiff would ask for something more substantial. Three notice that the suit does not ask for the defendant’s cloak. This is his outer garment. You see the plaintiff is literally seeking the “shirt off the back” of the defendant.

At first glance this looks a bit odd to a twenty-first century person living in the west. It isn’t until we understand that a person’s cloak was the most important piece of clothing a person owned. It doubled as a coat or a means to carry grain or heavy objects by day and a blanket or even pillow by night.

One has to admit that the taking of the very clothes of of a debtor’s back is rather callous at the least and perhaps against the law.

25 "If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest.
26 If you take your neighbor's cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset,
27 because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.
Exodus 22:25-27 (NIV)
While this seems so unfair and unreasonable to us, we only have to look at some of the laws and judgments handed down in this country to see how possible this scenario is. The stripping naked of this poor person graphically reveals the destruction of human dignity, in which the plaintiff is engaged in. Notice that Jesus taught that the plaintiff’s demands are not to be resisted, instead He teaches us to exceed their unjust demands. In the process the plaintiffs are unmasked for what they are. The end result is to heap coals of fire on their head.

20 On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."
Romans 12:20 (NIV)
Still learning to give it all away

Pastor Val

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