Monday, June 13, 2016

Matthew 5:39-40: Being a Witness to Love and Forgiveness

But I say to you . . . if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well.


One of the toughest teachings of Jesus is the command to not seek revenge for being wronged. It just goes against our human nature. When someone hurts us or those we love, we want to exact revenge, to get even, to feel better by personally leveling the scales. But Jesus teaches us the opposite: Turn the other cheek and give more than what is demanded. Rather than unpack these words, their context, and their meaning, Julio Diaz, a social worker from New York City, lives Jesus’ teaching for those with a keen eye toward the Gospel. Notice that Julio says nothing about Scripture or Jesus. Instead, he lives the Gospel lesson, exemplifying Jesus’ love.


The following transcript is from the recorded StoryCorps interview with Julio Diaz.  


Julio Diaz: So I get off the train. You know, I’m walking towards the stairs and this young teenager, uh, pulls out a knife. He wants my money. So I just gave him my wallet and told him, ’Here you go.’ He starts to leave and as he’s walking away I’m like, ’Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you’re gonna be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.’ So, you know, he’s looking at me like, ’What’s going on here?’ You know, and he asked me, ’Why are you doing this?’ And I’m like, ’Well, I don’t know, man, if you’re willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars then I guess you must really need the money. I mean, all I wanted to do was go get dinner and, uh, if you really want to join me, hey, you’re more than welcome.’
So I’m like, ’Look, you can follow me if you want.’ You know, I just felt maybe he really needs help. So, you know, we go into the diner where I normally eat and we sit down in the booth and the manager comes by, the dishwashers come by, the waiters come by to say hi – you know so… The kid was like, ’Man but you know like everybody here. Do you own this place?’ I’m like, ’No, I just eat here a lot.’ He’s like, ’But you’re even nice to the dishwasher.’ I’m like, ’Well, haven’t you been taught you should be nice to everybody?’ So he’s like, ’Yeah, but I didn’t think people actually behaved that way.”
So I just asked him in the end I’m like, ’What is it that you want out of life?’ He just had almost a sad face. Either he couldn’t answer me or he didn’t want to. The bill came and I look at him and I’m like, ’Look, uh, I guess you’re gonna have to pay for this bill ’cause you have my money and I can’t pay for this so if you give me my wallet back I’ll gladly treat you.’ He didn’t even think about it he’s like, ’Yeah, okay, here you go.’ So I got my wallet back and I gave, you know, I gave him twenty dollars for it.
You know, I figure, uh, maybe it’ll help him – I don’t know. And when I gave him the twenty dollars, I asked him to give me something in return – which was his knife – and he gave it to me.
You know, it’s funny ’cause when I told my mom about what happened – not mom wants to hear this but – at first she was like, ’Well, you know, you’re the kind of kid if someone asked you for the time you gave them your watch.’ I don’t know, I figure, you know, you treat people right, you can only hope that they treat you right. It’s as simple as it gets in this complicated world.


St. Francis of Assisi echoed that our lives should witness for Christ each day, and only if necessary, should we use words to preach. Julio Diaz exemplifies both Jesus’ words and St. Francis’ attitude toward preaching the Gospel. And I pray that each of us goes and does likewise.


May the peace and love of Christ be with you all.

Stan