Contemplating Jesus

THE SECOND MILE

Posted on by Lucinda M. Vardey

Pietro Perugino: Christ in the Tomb (l6th cent)

Jesus’ radical stance and countercultural teachings seem to always point towards not only loving thy neighbour as thyself but also practicing generosity towards those motivated by maliciousness.  Retribution for wrongdoing was not a part of his way, nor, in fact was resistance.

Jesus implied an absolute freedom from self-will and righteousness, and particularly self-defence.  His was the way of the Beatitudes, the way of personal non-violence, the way of total self-giving.  This self-giving would appear to be central to what he stood for in everything: a sort of non-possessiveness in attitude, a willingness to accept what comes in a position of total availability.

In Matthew 5:38-42 Jesus summarized what is required to live in a state of freedom from yourself.  If you are struck on the one cheek, then you make available the other. There’s no defending or complaining.  If someone takes your coat, then you give your cloak as well.  It is as if there needs to be no line in a person’s perception that when crossed would result in discord or a fight.  In summary, this sort of openness requires acceptance without limits.  Any other more familiar human way of response contributes to separation, a closing of a door instead of an opening wider to a possibility beyond reason.

As Jesus exemplified during his trial before Pilate, this sort of extreme acceptance of circumstances – the extraordinary non-resistance to being wrongly accused – is what might have moved Pilate to eventually wash his hands and order a sign on the cross that acknowledged Jesus as king. This king proclaimed that there is no answer unless it is for another.  There can be no self-propelled motivation or pre-determined restrictions.  The kingdom to which Jesus invites us to participate includes giving to the cost of hurting.   Mother Teresa of Calcutta called this giving until it hurt, the greatest act of love.

When it hurts Jesus said, go farther, don’t turn back, don’t decide on the limits of your involvement.  If you are forced to go one mile, then continue on for a second mile.  If you are asked to give – from either a beggar, or someone who wants to borrow from you – then “do not refuse anyone.”

What sort of world would it be if no one were refused?  Jesus’ call to create this world is still radical, transformative and true to the principles of unity and the conditions for peace.

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