"What if soldiers give us trouble?" says the southern Simon.The concepts of going the extra mile and turning the other cheek are so deeply ingrained in our culture it's possible to think of them as common sense rather than radical teachings. But I find myself moved by these ideas again and again when I think about them in their possible context as counterpoints to the accepted order of the world in Jesus' day.
"The laws of their kingdom say an armed soldier can make an unarmed man carry his pack for a mile," says Jesus. "But if one does, go two miles to show him that in God's kingdom, it's the strong who will help carry the burdens of the weak.
"The laws of their kingdom say a soldier can slap us with the back of his hand, like he would strike a slave," says Jesus. "But if one does, turn your face so he has to slap you with an open hand, the way he would challenge an equal!"
What do I find so beautiful about these sayings? In two simple pieces of advice, Jesus gives his disciples concrete actions they can perform which hint at their belief in a whole different way people could relate to one another. Two simple ways of reacting that highlight the contrast between the dominant mindset and the culture of the Kingdom of God.
Reading today, I find myself just a little envious of those early saints and their gestures.
I don't believe in the dominant assumptions of our age about how power and happiness and progress work. And I do believe that there are better ways we can relate to each other, ways more in line with the Godliness in each of us.
But what gesture do I have today which can compare with the power of going the extra mile or turning the other cheek? What simple actions can I take to show and share my belief in a real alternative to the ways of this world?