Today’s teaching from Jesus seems to go against all of our human instincts. If someone hurts us, we want to strike back at them and take our revenge. If someone steals from us, we want our property back. If someone hates us, then naturally, we respond with hatred in return. But Jesus calls his disciples to live by a different standard. Love your enemies, as well as your neighbours; turn the other cheek; pray for those who mistreat you.
We may think that Jesus is setting an impossible standard for us. How can anyone possibly live by this teaching? Jesus was speaking to Jews who lived under the Roman Empire, and who were bullied and humiliated every day by the occupying power, but still he challenged his disciples to turn the other cheek. If we look at the world around us, we can see only too clearly what happens when we return hatred for hatred and violence for violence. Surely it’s worth trying a different way.
How can Jesus give us such a hard teaching? Because he lived it out himself. Jesus turned the other cheek when he was slapped by Pilate’s soldiers; he offered no resistance when he was led to his death, and even prayed for the men who nailed him to the Cross. He calls us to follow his example.