“And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”
In verses 40 through 42, Jesus gave three more illustrations (in addition to turning the cheek) about retaliation.
And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
Jesus gives the scenario of a legal case of suing for a tunic. This is the second illustration. The tunic was the undergarment worn during the day. The cloak was an outer garment worn in the cooler evening, the more important and costly garment. Jesus says in effect that a kingdom believer should go beyond the law in relating to people.
And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
The third illustration relates to Roman military law. The word “forces” denotes pressing into service, coercing. Under Roman law, members of the militia were authorized to commandeer civilians to carry military equipment or personal items for one mile (Roman mile—4,854 feet). They were empowered to force any person walking along a road to serve. Jesus said in effect, “Go the extra mile; go twice as far as they ask.”
Give to the one who begs from you,
The fourth illustration has to do with loaning to those in need.
and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
The word “borrow” means to borrow at interest. This person asks for a loan rather than outright gift. Jesus said that kingdom people are to meet the material needs of others.
In each of the four illustrations, Jesus challenged His followers to go beyond the requirement. Whether it comes to physical attack (v.39), legal suit (v.40), governmental demand (v.41), or material need (v.42), the kingdom believer is to operate on a higher standard. Personal retaliation is not an option.
Jesus expects us to go beyond unreasonable demands for His sake.
Retaliation is not Christian. The believer does not seek revenge but operates on a higher principle. He seeks to help those who do him harm. His personal feelings are not an issue. Two wrongs do not make a right. We cannot resolve evil with evil. Life is too short for carrying out a vendetta.
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Ro 12:17-21
This does not mean that the believer is not to defend himself, but he is to go beyond human standards of reaction. Paul used the court system to appeal for justice. We do not submit to a crime but we submit to personal affront. Nothing personal gets to the mature believer. Life is too short to live in retaliation.