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Posts tagged with: Strategy


41 “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”
Matthew 5:41 (NIV)

In the previous two posts, Jesus commands us to “turn the other cheek” and “give until you are naked.” I have presented a different way to think about these commands from Jesus, by using and understanding the Hebrew Culture that Jesus grew up with. This passage about going two miles when asked to go only one is no different from the previous two posts. I want to present an ancient Roman law that Jesus would have been familiar with that I think He is referring to in this command.

The ancient Roman law I am referring to is called the Law of Angaria. You can do a search via the internet and find all kinds of information about this ancient rule. The Law of Angaria was enacted as a way to keep the Roman Empire from looking uncivilized. The Roman Empire wanted to be known as a dominating force, yet civilized. So, the Roman Empire adopted a law that the Persians created. This law gave authority to any Roman official…Military or not…to require of any person or vessel, living in Roman occupied territory, to carry anything the Roman official needed carried, but only for one mile. (If we got really technical, 1000 steps) If the official was caught having the person carry something more than a mile, he could be reprimanded, demoted and in some cases potentially put to death. The Law of Angaria is what the Romans used when they forced Jesus to carry his own cross. Its fascinating to know, that the distance between the place where Jesus was put on trial and the actual crucifixion sight (Golgotha or Skull Hill), was right at one mile. There are arguably two location where Golgotha is located, and both locations are right at one mile of distance from the Trial location.

So, Jesus tells his listeners,”If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” Is it possible that Jesus is being a bit ornery here? You have to agree with me that it is likely. Again, to repeat what I said in the previous two posts, Jesus does command us to be as sly as a snake and innocent as a dove. He does tell us to conquer evil by doing good.

Imagine an arrogant Roman officer demanding that you carry his pack for one mile. He has the right to do so because it is the law of the land. You, as a Christian, comply and you do exactly as the Roman officer commands you. As you traverse with the Roman officer for a mile, he would expect you to stop and return the pack. Imagine, without saying a word, you continue carrying the pack and you cross the one mile threshold. Not only are you doing an act of service and kindness to this Roman officer, that used the law of the land to take advantage of you, but you now have strategically and legally caused this Roman officer to be at your mercy. Its a double win for the Christian! Of course, as a Christian you are not going to mistreat this travel partner of yours, but you most definitely have the upper hand now. He knows he could be demoted for this situation and you now have the control. I have read about early Christians and have ventured across some stories of Christians walking the second mile with Romans and using the extra time to tell of the story of Jesus as the Son of God and the only way to Heaven.

I assure you, that after this happens once to any Roman, he would not use the Law of Angaria on a Christian again.

Be as a sly as a snake and innocent as a dove.
Conquer evil by doing good.

The early Christians had quite a reputation in the Roman Empire. A good and strong reputation. It fueled a great fire of hate within the belly of the bully. It caused unbelievable persecution upon the Christians. That very persecution, caused the message of Jesus, to spread like a wildfire out of control. Except it was controlled. God had it right where He wanted it.


Is there someone in your life who is trying to dominate you? Figure out a way to strategically and lovingly put them in their place. Do it without sinning. Our world needs more demonstrations of the strength and holiness and wisdom of Christianity. Be very careful with this. Remember that you and I are always one decision away from blowing our credibility. This also means that you and I are always one decision away from hurting the credibility of Jesus.

Romans 12:20 (NIV) says, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

I think it is fascinating that the author actually writes the part about heaping burning coals upon their head. That’s ornery. That’s strategic. Its not nice. Yet, according to the Bible, its not wrong!

Somewhere along the way of life, we confused the love of Jesus with simple nice-ness.

So, you know your circumstances. You know most of the people you encounter everyday. Right?

So, as you encounter these people today and tomorrow and the next, what do they think of Jesus because of you and your actions? Are they inspired by your strength, strategy, humility, boldness, wisdom, servanthood, innocent conquering ability?

Go inspire!


“And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”
Matthew 5:40

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.

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.


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.

HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 14 (Mt.5:25-26) “Before Court”

“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”
Matthew 5:25-26, See also Luke 12:57-59.

I humbly suggest a better idea than what Jesus says in this passage. Live your life in such a way that nobody ever wants to take you to court. Jesus actually said this anyway…Its really not my idea. I should give credit where credit is due! This seems like a simple passage. Jesus knows we live in a fallen world and that we are going to face many trials. It seems clear to me that Jesus was using his own advice found in Matthew 10:16 where He says, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” I translate that passage this way, “Sly as a snake — Innocent as a dove!” I love that passage.

Jesus is a strategist. He is a holy and innocent strategist. I think that we as people have to be very careful about this thing called strategy, because every single one of us is tempted to justify our motives of why we do what we do by simply saying, “its just strategy.” It would be very easy to take advantage of people and call it taking Jesus’ advice about being shrewd. But Jesus also commands us to be innocent. And even stronger than innocent, He calls us to live above reproach. The fact though, is this, Jesus calls us the Sheep, and the people of world, the Wolves. You are to live as a sheep, not a wolf.

I grew up on a farm and for many years we had hundreds of sheep…there may have even been a time where we had a thousand sheep…if not…it seemed like it. I learned from my experience that sheep are fast. Sheep can be very dumb and at other times be very smart. Its easy to cause sheep to panic. Sheep will protect the things they love, like their babies. Sheep are very playful with one another. Sheep love to eat. So, in reality, its a fair comparison for Jesus to call us sheep. Does this sound like ewe? (Bad sheep joke there.)

It does sound like us. Now, we didn’t have wolves on the farm, but we had coyotes.(Close enough.) They would sneak in and kill and steal and destroy. Jesus said, “I am sending you out as sheep among wolves.” Are you ready for me to get personal? Here’s the deal. If you behave like a wolf, you are a not a follower of Jesus, even if you give yourself the “Christian” title. People who call themselves Christians but have the behavior of a wolf are what I call “Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing.” (I said it like I meant it.) I’m not talking about a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” I meant it when I said, “sheep in wolves clothing.” These types of people are really very insecure and weak, but they hide behind their title of Christian and their position of power and they appear tough/wise and strategic, but really are not. This type of person is what we, in America, call a Bully. Bullies really aren’t tough like a wolf…they are insecure inside and have the timid character traits of a sheep, but they put on this tough exterior of words, and positional power and hold all that over people, thus, acting like a wolf. A sheep in wolves’ clothing.

Don’t be a sheep in wolves’ clothing.
Be a sheep. (If this title bothers you, then please take it up with Jesus.)

If you are a sheep then you will have to trust in your Shepherd to protect you. You will have to sometimes finish last and rely on the promise of The Shepherd, “The last shall be first.” This one promise is critical, and it encourages us to live like sheep with confidence in the fact that the Shepherd has our backs! Jesus is our Shepherd and He made sure there would be a Bible created, loaded with wisdom, that would help us live our lives as the kind of sheep, He will return for, and spend eternity with. This Hydrate series is simply a form of teaching from the things Jesus said in the Bible. “Hydrate” is a “thinking out loud” about all the things Jesus commanded or taught in the gospels of the Bible. Hydrate is meant to inspire you and induce within you a desire to focus more on Jesus Christ and understand what He believes about you and asks of you.

All Jesus is saying in this teaching is, “If someone is taking you to court, settle it ahead of time.” He is saying, “Don’t let others determine your future.” I think Jesus is saying, “Your future is your reputation, your position, your hard work, don’t hold onto it all too tightly, but don’t let its’ future be determined by anyone else other than you and me.” Jesus is warning you and me in this passage, to make sure we don’t live in such a way, that we end up being controlled by other people. Jesus is saying the best hands to “land” in are God’s hands and the 2nd best hands to end up in are your own. If you allow yourself and your future to be left in the hands of another person…that’s just not smart and its a form of prison. Its especially not smart when its your adversary. IF you are headed to court with your adversary, settle quickly and keep your future in the hands of God and yourself…not anyone else!

Try to settle ahead of time.
Take the High Road.
Be sacrificial.
Be like Jesus…who was led “like a lamb to slaughter.”
Do what is necessary to make sure you are able to keep your eyes on eternity. That means be “sly” and “innocent.”

If you fight for the things of the world and win…it’s probably the only reward you’re going to end up with. (I Hope you REALLY enjoy it!) Jesus warned us in other passages of the Bible by saying something like this…I paraphrase… “If you do anything on earth for a reward, that is the only reward you are going to get.” Then He says, “Store up for yourselves treasure in Heaven!” Think of it this way…To those who live for this world…this is as close to Heaven as they are going to get. For those who sacrifice now and live for Heaven…this is as close to Hell as they are going to get.

There is so much more to live for in eternity. Don’t fight so hard for the now.
Fight for eternity.

Are there THINGS in your life, that you have in your own grip so tightly controlled, that God can’t even use it, because you won’t let go of it and trust Him with it?
Here are some ideas when I say “Things you control”…
“Your” work’s success.
“Your” Marriage.
“Your” Children.
“Your” Money.
“Your” Security.
“Your” Habits.
“Your” goals.
“Your” material items.
“Your” stress.
The list could go for miles…

I don’t want to get to detailed on this one. You are smart enough to know if you are holding on to something to tightly and controlling it.
The question is, will you be honest enough with yourself to admit that you are trying too hard and holding on too tightly with____________________________________? (I dare you to fill in the blank and then trust God with it!)

Here are some closing thoughts. Jesus says, “settle things quickly before you go to court.” Now, why again? Because if it goes to court you allow your life and future to be determined by someone else other than you or God. That’s not a good place to be. So…think about the following Bible verses and work with a determined heart to live accordingly.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Romans 12:18

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”
Romans 14:19

“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
Matthew 22:21

Is God “speaking” to you right now about some change you could make in your life about anything that you have just read.

Who are you waiting on to make the change for you?
You are “sly” enough to know that you are the one who makes change in your own life.
Stay sly…and remember…its more important to be innocent.
Sly and Innocent are what Jesus asks you to be.
To know Jesus asks us this, is empowering.
You own the daily choices that determine WHO holds your future.
Keep your future in the hands of God and yourself.
That’s the good life.