“And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”
Did you read, Hydrate 19 yet? Its a bit long, but only because it lays the foundation for this command of Jesus’ too. If you don’t read Hydrate 19 before you read this one, it might cause a little confusion as you read this one, and the next one.
I mentioned in “Hydrate –Winning from the inside 19″ that I have traveled to the Holy Lands several times and while there I always make it a point to visit with any elderly Jewish person, that will speak with me, about some things that Jesus said. My first time to the Holy Lands I encountered an elderly Jewish woman who shared with me some ideas about Jewish history that might help some of Jesus’ commands and teachings make a bit more sense. As a reminder, Jesus was born into a very devoted Jewish family. Jewish law and tradition would have been reinforced in Jesus’ family. He would have obeyed the Jewish Old Testament laws. All 613 of them. Many times, as you read a New Testament passage and it causes confusion, the best way to make sense of it, is to sift it through Jewish Culture. Hydrate’s 19,20 and 21 are all teachings that I have sifted through Jewish Culture.
DRINK IT IN:
Jesus says in this passage, that we are devoting ourselves to today, “And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”
I have heard many messages and teachings on this passage, and each one that I have heard, has only left me disappointed and frustrated at what seems to be a teaching on how to be a wimpy christian. The way I have heard this passage taught, leaves me thinking, that in order to be a good Christian boy, I am not allowed to stand up to anyone. I’m not allowed to push back with my words. I am not allowed to be strong and bold, but should be passive and weak. What has happened in our society, that people think to be Christian means, we must be timid and quiet? The only scene I can think about in Scripture, where Jesus MIGHT have appeared to be a “walking mat,” a push-over, or “wimpy,” is when He allowed Himself to be beaten, flogged, mocked, and humiliated during the crucifixion. While watching the Mel Gibson movie called “The Passion,” I kept wanting to stand and yell during the crucifixion scene, “Fight Back, Jesus!” But, I recognize, that Hollywood and the American revenge mentality, caused me to want to shout. That attitude has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit. You and I both know that Jesus didn’t fight back, or rarely even talked back, during His nearly 18 hours of torture, before He died from asphyxiation on the Roman Cross. Why? Because Jesus knew His entire purpose, for living amongst us, was to lay down His life for us so that we could receive forgiveness of our sins. Of course He wouldn’t fight back during the crucifixion. If He did, it would have negated His entire purpose and most importantly would have been disobedient to His Father.
So, with that…
I challenge you to find me one other time in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John where Jesus didn’t push back on those who were trying to take advantage of Him. You won’t find one. In EVERY OTHER SCENARIO, Jesus always showed a strong demeanor and never allowed the “bully” to get away with pushing others around. In fact, you will find just the opposite. Read through the four gospel accounts in the Bible and you will find Jesus making a whip, knocking over tables, calling the religious leaders terrible names, exposing the religious bullies’ sins, and causing them to drop the stones they intended to throw, He even called out the sin of the Samaritan woman. You get the idea? What is amazing, is that, in those forms of strength, He remained sinless and perfect. So, why is it that we seem to have allowed His ‘submissive’ demeanor during the crucifixion…a one time scenario…to overrule the multitude of scenes where He didn’t submit, but conquered the evil around Him by doing good?
So, what the heck did Jesus mean when He said if someone takes you to court let them have everything? In Jesus’ time it was common to have two pieces of clothing that you wore every day. First, the Tunic – a long piece of plain cotton or linen cloth as an undergarment for the upper body, but sometimes reaching all the way down to the ankles. In today’s culture we would call this our underwear. I am thinking that we wouldn’t like these as underwear today. A tunic was not what we call “tighty-whities,” or “boxers.” The second piece of clothing, that was commonly worn, is the Cloak– a robe worn over all of the other items of clothing as an outer garment for warmth and appearance.
In Jesus time there were other “accessories” that people wore like, belts, sandals, prayer shawls, but the two key pieces of clothing were your Tunic and Cloak. Without the tunic or cloak one would basically be naked.
So, Jesus says, “And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well,” this means that Jesus is telling you to give of your tunic too, and you will be left naked. If I allowed this to happen while in court during the time period of Jesus, I would have to go home naked, or would I? This is where it gets good!
As I spoke with the elderly Jewish woman, I mentioned earlier, I asked her about this passage and told her why it frustrated me. She shared something pretty cool about the Old Testament that I had never thought about. She said there are Old Testament Scriptures that suggest it is a curse to see someone naked other than your spouse. She said that it is okay to be naked, but not to be seen naked. I asked her if she could remember any of the passages that she was referring to. She shared with me three things, two stories and one scripture verse. The first story she told me is when Adam and Eve recognized they were naked in Genesis 3 and how they used leaves to cover each other’s sexual parts because they felt ashamed. The second story she told me was of Noah and his three sons recorded in Genesis chapter 9. It is the story that happens right after Noah’s family comes off the Ark after the great flood. The Bible story is below and is found in Genesis 9:18-27.(NIV)
18 The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth.
20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded[a] to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.
24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,
“Cursed be Canaan!
The lowest of slaves
will he be to his brothers.”
26 He also said,
“Praise be to the LORD, the God of Shem!
May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
27 May God extend Japheth’s[b] territory;
may Japheth live in the tents of Shem,
and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.”
Q: What did Noah’s youngest son, Canaan, do to Noah that caused Canaan to be cursed?
A: He saw his father naked.
The elderly woman told me that in the Jewish culture, because of this specific Bible story, Jewish tradition says that it is a shame to see someone, other than your spouse, naked. Now, please be patient with me in this understanding. I have tried to verify this by looking in books, commentaries, ask Jewish people in America, and even Google it, and I find very little to verify it. I say, “take it or leave it.” I choose to take it, because it helps me understand this passage of having your Cloak and Tunic taken from you, as a passage of strength, not weakness. Please note the following. Whatever you believe about this specific idea, it is a non-essential Biblically. As I said in previous chapters, this entire Hydrate series is a devotional thing, not a theological thing. If I ever make it a theological issue, I will mention it, as so, specifically. So…back to the point.
Don’t forget that Jesus said things like, “Conquer evil by doing good.” Also, “Be sly as a snake and innocent as a dove.” The elderly Jewish woman helped me understand these passages when she told me about this Jewish tradition. Let’s play it out in a mock court room. Imagine that I am in court and someone has chosen to sue me for my Cloak and they win and in the process of taking my cloak, I go ahead and strip naked and give them my tunic as well! What did I just do to this person…now that they would have seen me naked? I would have caused them to be “cursed” in a very strategic and innocent way. I actually conquered them by doing something good! Jesus said, “Conquer evil by doing good!” By them seeing me naked, because I gave my cloak AND my tunic, I was innocent to do so, but sly as a snake as well as I conquered the evil they were doing to me.
I think this understanding is a way to, as we like to say, “kill people with kindness.” For my enemy to sue me for my cloak and win, but then, I give him my tunic as well, I am treating my enemy with kindness, I could pray for him, I serve him, yet I show him not to mess with me, a Christian! I treated him with kindness AND “beat him in his evil game.” I will leave an impression with my accuser that I am smart, kind, strong, and most definitely not timid. I love that! (The next blog will build on this even more.)
Now to be fully forthcoming, there is one other idea out there about this teaching of Jesus’. I mentioned the elderly Jewish woman shared with me three Old Testament scenarios about nakedness. The third passage, she shared with me, is Isaiah 58:6-8(NIV), it reads,
“6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Verse 8 says, “when you see the naked, clothe them.” If you think with me back to the courtroom scene, it is obvious this passage would be a way to conquer evil by doing good as well. If you gave your cloak and your tunic to your accuser, your accuser would see you naked and would then be in a moral dilemma as to whether or not he wanted to break the old testament commandment of Isaiah 58:7. When the accuser saw you naked He would then be forced, by His own conscience, to give you your tunic back, which would show that He now was defeated by you! Or, he could ignore the Old Testament command in Isaiah and deal with his own sin and guilty conscience. Either way, you stood up to your accuser without doing anything wrong. You conquered evil by doing good! Does this understanding give you clarity on how to be a christian without being a wimp? I hope so.
SWEAT IT OUT:
How do we make this relevant today? I think that each of us must think of our current lives and our current enemies and figure out ways to treat them with kindness, but at the same time show them they have no dominance over us at all. Its perfectly fine to stand up to people as long as we don’t have sinful behavior. The Bible is full of language about patience, taming the tongue, gentleness, respect for others, not being vengeful, etc. There is a way to be and do all those things and at the same time not be seen as a push-over or wimp. I personally think a majority of true Christians get this part, but we have fallen prey to being overly “nice” and therefore not taking a stronger stand than we should. There is also a fine line of behavior here. I think some might use this material as a way to justify their sinful behavior of standing on street corners and yelling with “boldness” at people who are living in sin. I’m asking the reader of this to use extreme common sense in how to be strategic AND innocent. I’m talking about how to take a strong stance AND be gentle and respectful. The extremes of either side are dangerous to the reputation and cause of Jesus Christ.
Other than hypocrisy and sin, there is no greater thing that can be shown by Christians to harm sharing the love of Jesus, than timidity and “wimpy-ness.” Christianity already has a stereotype of being for people who need a crutch in life. Christians must learn to take an innocent stand, a strategic stand, and be bold for Jesus without harming His cause.
In your current situation, where you may be being dominated by someone, how can you conquer their evil by doing good? How can you stand up to them with strategy and innocence? Before you decide and act on this, run it by a trusted Christian friend first.
You must start by praying for your enemy. Don’t seek revenge, leave that to God. Treat people with kindness and respect, and if they are being abusive, figure out an innocent way to demonstrate to them that Christians are a Holy force to reckon with.
But, please, by all means….Do not be a weakling. Its not how Jesus is.