When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand over your cloak as well…
…Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
We believe that God became man. That is what we say every Sunday. “We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ…for us men and for our salvation, He came down from heaven…and became man.”
God—Who is perfect, Who is holy, Who is just—became man. God took our human nature to Himself—our human nature which is imperfect, which is given to impurity, which is frequently unjust. God made a union of the infinitely perfect with the imperfectly limited.
How did He do it? It seems impossible. I mean, let’s take an example. Don’t tell anyone, but I like an old-fashioned martini. Ice cold gin. Twist of lemon zest. Perfect.
On the other hand, I know people who drink those cans of Red Bull. Yuck. Tastes like what they drain out of your engine when you take your car in for an oil change.
Now if I poured a can of Red Bull into my perfect martini…it would be terrible. I am not capable of uniting the perfect with the imperfect and coming up with something perfect. We human beings simply cannot pull off such a combination.
So how did God do it?
It is not just theoretical, that God could unite the perfect with the imperfect and wind up with something perfect. We cannot say, ‘Sure, theoretically God can do that, because He can do anything. But we have no idea how.’
We cannot say this, because it is not just a theoretical possibility. It is an accomplished fact. God has in fact combined the infinitely good with the perennially bad, and the result was the best thing ever. He did not produce a disgusting Red-Bull martini, fit only for tired people with no taste buds. No: He united God and man, and the result was literally the best thing ever.
So how did He do it? How? Come on. Don’t look at me like, ‘Father, what are you talking about?’
We all know how He did it; we all know how He united His holiness with our weakness. Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the perfectly delicious Red-Bull martini of God.
When the Lord walked the earth, He committed no crime. He told no lie. And yet when the time came for Him to give up His life, He offered no resistance to the evil men who framed Him and railroaded Him to swift execution.
When the Temple guard struck the Lord’s right cheek, He calmly continued to bear witness to the truth—so the guard struck His other cheek, too.
By rights, the Lord Jesus should have taken His throne in a splendid royal cloak. But instead He let the Roman centurions cast lots for His tunic, and He hung upon the cross naked.
This is the way that God united His glory with our lowliness. Jesus Christ–perfectly innocent, perfectly honest, perfectly just—submitted like a lamb to the slaughter of our human jealousy, smallness, willfulness, and fear.
If a man ever had enemies, the Lord had them. Without a scintilla of justice on their side, they drove nails into His flesh and left Him to be pecked at by birds. These were certainly His enemies. But what did He say? “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”
So what is the Lord trying to say to us? Is He saying: “Even when you know you are right, go along with what the bad people have in mind?”
Is He telling us to be a bunch of cowards without the courage of our convictions, who comfort ourselves in our wimpy-ness with the certainty that at least we know better than our persecutors? Is that what He did when He called the Pharisees a brood of vipers and drove the money-changers out of the Temple?
No. Jesus Christ does not teach us to be wimps who are secretly self-righteous. He is NOT saying, ‘Even when you know you are right, go along anyway.’ That is not the path to holiness.
No, I think the path to holiness looks a little more like this: When I know that I am right…I had probably better think again.
When this man over here, who is not very good, makes a pain in my butt and costs me precious time and effort and won’t co-operate and makes me mad—Well, I had better love this man for showing me myself. I’m sure I annoy a lot of people ten times more than he does me. May God have mercy on us all.
When this woman over here carries on like my enemy and pulls fast ones on me and keeps me from getting what I want…let me study myself to see what I can change so that we can be friends–or at least both get what we want.
God in heaven looks down upon us, and not one of us looks like an ice-cold dry martini. All of us look like warm cans of acrid Red Bull.
But He picks us up anyway, and smacks His lips, and says, ‘You acrid can of Red Bull, I am not going to spit you out of my mouth in disgust. I am not going to throw you in the trash. I am going to hold on to you. You are who you are, so that’s like an ice-cold martini to me.’
That’s what the good Lord says every morning when He makes the sun rise for us, puts roofs over our heads, clothes on our backs, and food on our tables. That what He says when He puts life-breath in our bodies for another day.
So if our perfect heavenly Father can look at us nasty cans of warm Red Bull and see nothing but a pure martini, then maybe we can see the good in each other, too—and be patient and forgiving with the bad.