Rev Moss

Shakespeare’s little known play Troilus and Cressida is set in Troy during the Trojan war. Before the final battle in Act 5, Hector, the son of Troy’s king, is preparing to go off to fight the Greeks. However, both his sister and his wife try to convince him not to go because they fear for his life. Hector will hear none of it. He has sworn an oath to the gods to fight for Troy and cannot even conceive of breaking his vow. Hector proclaims,

“Life every man holds dear; but the dear man
Holds honour far more precious dear than life.”

For Hector, honour is far more important than life itself. This is true in many cultures. Honour is an incredibly powerful force. To receive respect and dignity, to maintain status, reputation, and your good name, are incredibly important for many. People have been willing to give up their life rather than be dishonoured. Into this honour and shame culture Jesus spoke these counter cultural words in Matthew Chapter 5:

38 ‘You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

When we are personally injured, that injury can suddenly become our whole world. We cannot think of anything else other than to put right what has been done to us. The hurt and shame can be overwhelming.

However, Jesus challenges us to consider that there is something that is even more important than our honour and the right of retaliation. He challenges us to have a larger view of our life and our place in God’s world. To possibly see God, and see ourselves in His hands.

And even further than that, he challenges us to see our injurer as more than just someone who has imposed on us or hurt us. To recognise their humanity, their limitations (which we also share), and to also see them under God. Jesus desires that we would respond not to the injury that we have suffered but that we would respond to the person who has threatened our honour.

That is what we see so clearly at Easter. Jesus just stands there and is humiliated. He is mocked, beaten, and treated as nothing. Why does he just stand there and turn the other cheek? Because of you.

You see, at the cross Jesus is not responding to his own injury and honour. He is responding to the person who injured him: you. He lets the harm and the injury fall on himself so that you would be lifted in glory.