I get very irritated by the inconsiderate and impatient drivers who speed around London, pushing to the front of traffic queues. Their rudeness brings rudeness out of me. When they try to push in front of my car, I try to squeeze them out. I get cross and agitated, and express my annoyance. I don’t think I’m the only one.
Jesus advises a different way of responding to the irritations around us. He didn’t have to cope with London drivers, but - having walked around the narrow alleys of ancient Capernaum - I suspect that tempers got stretched there just as much as they do in our over-crowded streets.
Jesus advised the ordinary folk of Capernaum: “Don’t resist tedious people. If someone slaps you on one cheek, let them slap the other. If someone sues you, give them more than they are asking for. If someone forces you to go out of your way for them, go even further. And if anyone asks something of you, give it to them." (See Matthew 5:39-32 for the official version.) In short: go around this world with a generous heart.
We like to feel in control of our lives: our time, our bodies and our money. When we do not feel in control, we get stressed: our heartbeat rises, adrenaline flows, our fight/flight instincts take over. Jesus proposes a different way. We don’t need to be in control. We don’t need to protect our dignity. God loves us, and he loves those challenging people just as much as he loves us. ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ is not God’s way.
Jesus didn’t just teach this different way, he lived it. When 5000 people gatecrashed a quiet day out with his disciples, he loved them, taught them and fed them. And ultimately, when the Jewish authorities decided that he had to be killed, Jesus let them do even that. That’s how he chose to save the world.
We don’t have to push back. We don’t need to resist. There is a better way. God loves those annoying and demanding people, and he wants us to love them too.