Radical Righteousness

Let us now look at the second and third examples in vv. 40-41. “And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matt. 5:40-41, ESV). These are examples of oppression and coercion. Jesus teaches that in not resisting evil, we should go above average.

The picture is the court of law. Today, if someone sues you and wins, you pay with your money, your car, your house and lot, etc. But in Jesus’ day, if you lose in court, you pay with your tunic. A tunic is the inner clothing next to the skin. Maybe Jesus’ listeners were mostly poor people with nothing to pay except the clothes on their backs.

But Jesus says, don’t pay with your tunic only, give your cloak. The cloak is the outer clothing, the robe. Don’t just pay him your tunic, give him your cloak. The problem here is that if you give your tunic and your cloak, what clothing will be left on your body? Nothing; you will go naked. Hence, Jesus’ example is a symbolic example. It is a symbolic example of radical righteousness.

Anyone can pay with their tunic. That is average. But only Kingdom people will give their cloak. That is extraordinary Kingdom living. Anyone who resists Christ can pay with their tunic. That is average righteousness. But only one who obeys Christ will give his cloak. That is radical righteousness.

“And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matt. 5:41, ESV). This third example pictures a Roman soldier forcing you into military service. The verb, “forces” (aggareuo) means, “require another to carry a burden” (Friberg); “force to carry” (Louw-Nida). Jesus says if someone forces you to carry a load for one mile, go with him two miles. This is where we get our expression, “go the extra mile.”

Brethren, in the Kingdom of God, when we deal with evil, we should go beyond what is required of us. Go beyond the average in dealing with evil. Resist the tendency to remain average in dealing with evil. Overcome evil with extraordinary good.

Paul said in Rom. 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” To overcome evil with evil is to do what any sinner who disobeys Christ would do. But to overcome evil with good is to do what only a Kingdom person who obeys Christ would do.

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