If you’ve ever wondered what Jesus expects of his followers, read these verses. We would probably prefer it if Jesus said, “If you want to follow me, go to church once or twice a month. Listen to Christian radio. Read a book or two on spiritual growth. Don’t cuss (at least in front of others). Share posts about Jesus on Facebook.” That kind of discipleship would be easy.
In this passage, we learn that truly following Jesus is demanding, but its reward is to be under the care of the One who is unfailingly merciful. And contrary to popular belief, Jesus is not advocating for being a doormat. In fact, I once had a professor who said this is a perfect example of subversive resistance. Remember, Jesus lived in the same culture as his hearers of that day. To turn the other cheek to someone who had just backhanded you meant forcing that person to strike you with an open palm. In that culture, this signified that you were equals. To not only give your coat, but also your shirt to someone who demands it would mean you are standing naked before them. In that culture, nakedness brought shame on the one who sees it, not the person who’s naked. It’s possible, according to Jesus, to stand your ground and to claim your worth in ways that don’t escalate the aggression.
“Want to follow me,” asks Jesus. “Love your enemies. Do good without any strings attached. Be merciful. Forgive. Be generous.” That’s where the rubber meets the road. In prayer, dedicate yourself to striving for that depth of discipleship in your own life.