On Jesus, Lawsuits and Volkswagons
Jesus said a lot of things that, honestly, I don't really understand. Last night, though, I had the thought that maybe the reason I claim not to understand much of what he said is because so much of it seems so utterly impossible for humans to accomplish.
This is especially true when Jesus gets into the dirty particulars. For example, when he says: "Forgive people." I say: "Sure...that sounds good...I think I'll do that." But when he says: "Forgive people - and by the way, when someone punches you in the face, don't punch him back and, by the way, let him hit you again." I say: "Wow, that's hard to do!"
Because we are silly law students, a couple of us were talking about this last night in reference to Matthew 5:40. There, Jesus gets into those particulars again: "if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also." Now I'm pretty sure Jesus wasn't referring to your usual "Law & Order: SVU" style lawsuit here. I'm sure things were different then. But still, it does seem like he's saying that when a person forces you at the law to give up your hard-earned cash, you should go ahead and sell your Volkswagon in order to give him even more money. Hmmm?
I suppose there are (at least) a few ways to look at this:
(1) You could take what he said literally, and whenever someone files a complaint seeking damages in the form of your North Face jacket, then you'll be sure to give the guy a cloak too (if you happen to have one).
(2) Or, you could be a little less literal and say that whenever someone asks you for money or even when they sue you for money, you should be extraordinarily generous and not begrudging about it.
(3) Finally, you could inch back into those blessed generalities and say that Jesus was just giving an example (which may or may not be relevant today) of what it means love your enemy. I mean who is more your enemy than your opponent in a lawsuit.
I'd tend to go with number (3), although I'm afraid it's only because generalized commandments give you so much wiggle room. On the other hand, if someone sues me and wins, I think my wife would give me quite the look if I decided to give the guy our car too.
Any ideas about a possible middle ground?