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From the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew:
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
—Matthew 5:38-42, NIV
But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
—Luke 6:27-31. NIV
Julio Diaz is a social worker in New York and each night as he took the hour long subway ride back home to the Bronx he would get off one stop early to eat at his favorite diner. However, one night in 2008 something happened. The subway platform was just about empty and, as he made his way to the staris, Julio was approached by a teenager with a knife.
Here’s how it happened according to the NPR story Morning Edition:
“He wants my money, so I just gave him my wallet and told him, ‘Here you go,'” Diaz says.
As the teen began to walk away, Diaz told him, “Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you’re going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.”
The would-be robber looked at his would-be victim, “like what’s going on here?” Diaz says. “He asked me, ‘Why are you doing this?'”
Diaz replied: “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 get dinner and if you really want to join me … hey, you’re more than welcome.
“You know, I just felt maybe he really needs help,” Diaz says.
Diaz says he and the teen went into the diner and sat in a booth.
Over the course of the meal, Diaz and the mugger talked. The young man could see that everyone in the diner knew Diaz and that Diaz was nice to everyone there…including the dishwasher. This behavior…nice behavior, treating people well…was foreign to the boy. At the end of the meal the mugger gave the wallet back but took $20 that was offered by Diaz. All Diaz asked for was the knife. And the mugger gave that up…perhaps a changed man after being confronted with someone really putting that whole “turn the other cheek” scripture into practice.
“I figure, you know, if you treat people right, you can only hope that they treat you right. It’s as simple as it gets in this complicated world.”
I’m not sure it’s that “simple” really. “Simple” is handing over your money and trying to save your life. “Simple” is trying to fight back. It’s harder to invest yourself so much in someone who, by all appearances, wishes to do you harm. It’s harder to follow in the footsteps of the Gospel.