“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person…If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles…You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” – Matthew 5:38-44 NIV
The Christian work of disruption isn’t about conflict, it’s about creativity.
In the time of Christ, the law gave Roman Centurions the right to force any Jewish person to carry the Roman’s baggage for a particular distance. By and large, the Jewish people despised their Roman subjugation. So the individual was presented with a choice. Disobey the Centurion’s command and face the penalty, or begrudgingly oblige and endure the humiliation for the set distance.
Jesus proposed a third option. His proposal to double the distance was about more than going above and beyond. To double the distance would be to reclaim one’s inherent self-worth and the power to self-determine, or choose. It demonstrated a willingness to use that power to choose service. In this way it put the Centurion and the Jewish subject on equal footing. The baggage carrier was now freed to interact with the Centurion as an equal.
Jesus was in essence saying, you have heard the tired cycle of retribution; the endless struggle for dominance. I am saying, disrupt that cycle; get out of that endless loop.
Use the creative power of love to find a new way forward that affirms the God given image inherent in all of us.
It is this message that Apostle Paul later refers to in Romans saying, “Do not conform to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of this when he discussed disrupting cultural practices and values that are at odds with the gospel.
“There are some things in our world to which I’m proud to be maladjusted…I never intend to adjust myself to segregation and discrimination…I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that leave millions of people perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of prosperity…I never intend to adjust myself to the self-defeating effects of physical violence… The saving of our world from pending doom will come through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority”
When Christ calls to “not resist an evil person”, he is not saying let them run rampant. He is saying do not fall into the trap of cyclical violence and false dichotomies of us versus them. Listen for how the creative power of love will disrupt the same old story and fashion a new way forward together.