5 Verses Christians Like to Ignore

We can't just breeze over the tough parts of the Bible.

One of the things that makes the message of the Gospel so revolutionary is that it reframes the way we think the world should work. After all, His ways are not our ways.

But too often, when a verse challenges the way we do things to a degree that seems unreasonable, it can be easier to just ignore it entirely. For many Christian, there is a pattern of selectively breezing over some of Christ’s more difficult commands, while favoring parts of Scripture that are easy to understand and apply.

But not only does that cut Christ’s message short, it also causes us to miss out on the real joys of trusting God—even when what He’s asking is hard.

Here’s a look at five verses that many Christians often ignore:

Do Not Resist an Evil Person

"Do not resist an evil person … And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them 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).

The Sermon on the Mount is one of Jesus’ most radical messages. In verse 38 of Matthew 5, Christ turns old logic on its head and asks His followers to think about their “enemies” in a new way. We’re all most likely familiar with Jesus’ command turn the other cheek (“If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also”), but the heart of the message isn’t just about forgiveness; it’s also about a posture of grace and compassion—not defensiveness.

Often, in modern evangelicalism, there is a tendency to want to defend our faith, fight in a culture war and be “warriors” for the Church. But Jesus challenges us to re-examine our view of justice. Clearly, we are called to help the poor, and we should be angry when vulnerable people are taken advantage of, but Christ asks us not to be defensive when someone does something to us personally.

In an era of product boycotts and ever-present outrage, the command to “no resist an evil person” is a difficult one that is too often ignored.

In an era of product boycotts and ever-present outrage, the command to “not resist an evil person” is a difficult one that is too often ignored.

Christians Should Expect to Suffer

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything … Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him" (James: 1:2-12).

Out of the 12 original disciples of Jesus, 10 were martyred, one was exiled and one committed suicide. Obviously, they lived in a time and a place particularly hostile to Christianity, but they readily expect temporal suffering in exchange for eternal rewards.

In much of Western evangelicalism, where civil opposition is frequently conflated with legitimate persecution, we’ve too often maintained the expectations that Christians not only deserve to maintain happy, prosperous lives, but that we're justified in being shocked and outraged when culture does not share our values.

But James has a different message than the prosperity gospel and self-help platitudes. He tells followers of Christ that we should expect our faith to be tested—because that’s how it is made stronger. We should expect suffering, not because God's malicious, but because He wants us to know what it is like to lean on Him for strength.

If we are chasing temporal happiness at the cost of eternal rewards, then our priorities are backwards. In a culture of creature comfort and abundance, James’ message is too often ignored in favor of the type of “Gospel” that equates strong faith with earthly success.

Hatred Is the Same Thing As Murder

"Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him" (1 John 3:15).

Jesus constantly challenged us to not only examine our own outward behaviors, but to also constantly keep our inward selves in check. In Matthew, He equates lust to adultery, and in 1 John, He illustrates an even stronger example, saying that hatred is the same as murder.

Sure, there probably aren’t a lot of Christians who would say they “hate” someone, but if we’re honest with ourselves, our actions don’t always bear that out. Because for Jesus, hatred wasn’t simply wishing ill on someone—it was the absence of love: “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.”

The verse is simply about not hating—it’s about not loving. That’s why it’s so challenging and so frequently ignored.

When we talk about bad someone—a friend, a cultural figure, a leader—if our motivations are not born out of love and correction, then we should carefully check our motives. That’s partly why Jesus used such dramatic examples: It’s easy to judge outward actions, but for God, it all comes down to matters of the heart.

Don’t Give Into Fear

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7).

If we believe God is who He says He is, then we have nothing to fear. Our own fear about situations reveals the level of trust we have in His promises.

Fear is one of the most basic human impulses. We use it keep ourselves out of dangerous situations and stay protected from harm. But in faith that teaches “Anyone who loves their life will lose it,” self-preservation isn't always a good thing.

When commanding Joshua to lead his people into the promise land, God told him, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” In Philippians, we are told, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Again, the issue of fear comes down to trust. If we believe God is who He says He is, then we have nothing to fear. Our own fear about situations reveals the level of trust we have in His promises.

Whether it's how we deal with current-event situations like the refugee crisis or even personal life choices like being obedient to calling even when it involves risk, letting fear play more of a role in shaping our mindset than love warps our perspective.

It’s why we are told that, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

Warnings Against Wealth

"Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:23).

In Matthew 19, a young man seemingly deeply concerned about his eternal salvation confronts Jesus. “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” He tells Jesus that he has dutifully followed all of His moral commands, even loving his neighbor as himself. The man then asks, “What do I still lack?”

Jesus tells the man (who the Bible says was rich), “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the man walks away, Jesus gives the example of the camel passing through the eye of needle, demonstrating how hard it is “for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven."

For people who live in the richest country in history, this is a challenging message.

Jesus understood that to follow Him meant committing everything—our entire hearts and devotion to Him. And for many people, the security and comfort money provides can occupy a bigger place in our hearts than anything else. That’s why Jesus told His followers that “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

The verse isn’t simply a condemnation of greed. It’s an illustration of how much God wants us to trust Him fully; to not worry; to put our trust in something that “no thief comes near and no moth destroys.”

When we spend time worrying about our bank accounts and financial security, we are ignoring the command, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.”

Top Comments

Mar Komus

29

Mar Komus commented…

"Warnings Against Wealth" Fair to say, yet it's also tempting to err on the side of cloaking laziness in a garb of "trusting Jesus." Christians are commanded to work at something useful with our own hands so that we can share with others in need (Ephesians 4:28). That implies a little something about our money management: we're required to make an abundance--yet not an exorbitant hoarding--so that we can share with those in need.

David Zirilli

34

David Zirilli commented…

First, "When we talk about bad someone—a friend, a cultural figure, a leader" - is a typo. I think you meant, "when we talk bad about someone." Ok, it happens. And, "Don’t Give Into Fear" please edit this to, "Don't Give In to Fear". (Ok, now I better not make any typos in this comment or I'm in for it.)

Now, substantively, I agree with the overall point of the article and many of the examples, but I think you miss the principle in the first example you cite. From my understanding of turn the other cheek and go the extra mile and give them your cloak too, there is some context to be considered. The hearers and readers of this message were an oppressed minority in the Roman Empire. People had legal authority to oppress them to a point. A Roman soldier could conscript anyone to carry anything for them for one mile, but not two. A boss, a husband or a father could strike a worker, wife, or child with the back of his right hand across the cheek without fear of retribution. The law was on his side. But, he couldn't strike them with his palm or with a fist as that would be how you fight an equal. One person could sue another for his undershirt/tunic, but not his cloak/coat which was considered a human right, to own at least a coat for warmth and protection from the elements. The law gave the minority certain rights, but also gave their oppressors certain rights over them. They were not equals by any means.

I believe that Jesus is in this passage setting the stage for peaceful defiance of authority. If someone forces you to go one mile, prove to them that you are not less than them, choose of your own accord to walk with them a second mile which they were not permitted to require of you. Let them see that you are not a person that can be used and ignored. (What wonderful conversations might arise in that second mile as two equals walk side by side?) And, you are sparing someone else from being likewise abused by the system.

If someone strikes you on the cheek, turn to them the other also. They are permitted without fear of punishment to strike you with the back of their right hand. But, if you turn to them your other cheek, you are in a sense saying, "How about you hit me again with your open hand or with your fist?" If he does strike you with an open hand or fist, by Roman law, he is treating you as an equal and you are permitted to defend yourself. He has overstepped the law and is now abusing his status as a boss. I do not think Jesus was advocating asking for a second hit and hoping that his followers can then punch back. I believe he was advocating standing against the unjust laws of the time and forcing their oppressors (the "evil person") who use the law to abuse human beings legally to face the peaceful resistance of human beings who refuse to be treated as less than human beings.

And, finally, the cloak as well as the tunic. Today, if you are seen naked, it can be quite embarrassing. Back then, as I understand it, it caused great shame. But, not to the one who was naked, but rather to the one who saw the other person naked. Remember the story of Noah being seen by his son, Ham. Shame. So, someone could sue someone else for their tunic, their undershirt, which was considered a luxury item. It was softer and gentler on the skin than the rough, heavier cloak. Now it is not talking about a guy like us who has 50 shirts at home. This is typically his only tunic. Someone, with the full authority of the law, could sue and take it. If this person is an "evil person" as Jesus declares, you can bet the lawsuit was unjust and the law was protecting the unjust evil person and allowing them to legally steal his tunic. Jesus says, "Give him your cloak too." Maybe like the prophets of old, this is meant to be a graphic illustration, in this case, of how the system leaves people naked and helpless. And, so leaves those who use the system to abuse others shamed.

This is a different way of thinking of these verses, but I agree that we ignore them all too often. As long as the system is benefiting us, we don't much care about those that it takes advantage of. But, every once in a while we are confronted with the reality of the oppressed when we see a news story about a young boy in the hallway of his apartment building shot to death by police, and we are taken aback. Or we read about the sex trade at the Superbowl and wonder how that is possible. What does it mean to peacefully resist the system, the powers that be, those in authority in such a way as we see Jesus promoting here. What does it mean to step into the lives of the oppressed and allow their experience to shape our interactions with their oppressors or to see how we benefit from the oppression whether or not we ourselves are doing the oppressing.

14 Comments

David Zirilli

34

David Zirilli commented…

First, "When we talk about bad someone—a friend, a cultural figure, a leader" - is a typo. I think you meant, "when we talk bad about someone." Ok, it happens. And, "Don’t Give Into Fear" please edit this to, "Don't Give In to Fear". (Ok, now I better not make any typos in this comment or I'm in for it.)

Now, substantively, I agree with the overall point of the article and many of the examples, but I think you miss the principle in the first example you cite. From my understanding of turn the other cheek and go the extra mile and give them your cloak too, there is some context to be considered. The hearers and readers of this message were an oppressed minority in the Roman Empire. People had legal authority to oppress them to a point. A Roman soldier could conscript anyone to carry anything for them for one mile, but not two. A boss, a husband or a father could strike a worker, wife, or child with the back of his right hand across the cheek without fear of retribution. The law was on his side. But, he couldn't strike them with his palm or with a fist as that would be how you fight an equal. One person could sue another for his undershirt/tunic, but not his cloak/coat which was considered a human right, to own at least a coat for warmth and protection from the elements. The law gave the minority certain rights, but also gave their oppressors certain rights over them. They were not equals by any means.

I believe that Jesus is in this passage setting the stage for peaceful defiance of authority. If someone forces you to go one mile, prove to them that you are not less than them, choose of your own accord to walk with them a second mile which they were not permitted to require of you. Let them see that you are not a person that can be used and ignored. (What wonderful conversations might arise in that second mile as two equals walk side by side?) And, you are sparing someone else from being likewise abused by the system.

If someone strikes you on the cheek, turn to them the other also. They are permitted without fear of punishment to strike you with the back of their right hand. But, if you turn to them your other cheek, you are in a sense saying, "How about you hit me again with your open hand or with your fist?" If he does strike you with an open hand or fist, by Roman law, he is treating you as an equal and you are permitted to defend yourself. He has overstepped the law and is now abusing his status as a boss. I do not think Jesus was advocating asking for a second hit and hoping that his followers can then punch back. I believe he was advocating standing against the unjust laws of the time and forcing their oppressors (the "evil person") who use the law to abuse human beings legally to face the peaceful resistance of human beings who refuse to be treated as less than human beings.

And, finally, the cloak as well as the tunic. Today, if you are seen naked, it can be quite embarrassing. Back then, as I understand it, it caused great shame. But, not to the one who was naked, but rather to the one who saw the other person naked. Remember the story of Noah being seen by his son, Ham. Shame. So, someone could sue someone else for their tunic, their undershirt, which was considered a luxury item. It was softer and gentler on the skin than the rough, heavier cloak. Now it is not talking about a guy like us who has 50 shirts at home. This is typically his only tunic. Someone, with the full authority of the law, could sue and take it. If this person is an "evil person" as Jesus declares, you can bet the lawsuit was unjust and the law was protecting the unjust evil person and allowing them to legally steal his tunic. Jesus says, "Give him your cloak too." Maybe like the prophets of old, this is meant to be a graphic illustration, in this case, of how the system leaves people naked and helpless. And, so leaves those who use the system to abuse others shamed.

This is a different way of thinking of these verses, but I agree that we ignore them all too often. As long as the system is benefiting us, we don't much care about those that it takes advantage of. But, every once in a while we are confronted with the reality of the oppressed when we see a news story about a young boy in the hallway of his apartment building shot to death by police, and we are taken aback. Or we read about the sex trade at the Superbowl and wonder how that is possible. What does it mean to peacefully resist the system, the powers that be, those in authority in such a way as we see Jesus promoting here. What does it mean to step into the lives of the oppressed and allow their experience to shape our interactions with their oppressors or to see how we benefit from the oppression whether or not we ourselves are doing the oppressing.

Katara Colls

19

Katara Colls replied to David Zirilli's comment

Well said. Context can really change the way you view a verse a lot, can't it? And if many Christians are guilty of glossing over tough verses, even more are guilty of not thinking about the historical and cultural context of what they read.... it's something most of us need to do more of.

Sandra Plate

2

Sandra Plate replied to Katara Colls's comment

Interesting, David Zirilli. Where did you find that information so I can look at it myself?

Carolyn Robe

96

Carolyn Robe replied to David Zirilli's comment

Well said! We have available to us much knowledge about Roman history and rule in the time of Jesus..as Reza Aslan the religious scholar points out. Context is important! Otherwise we can just cherry pick what sounds good to us without understanding. Christians are idealistic but some of the commands of the Bible are impossible or near impossible if taken literally and/or out of context: "Take up thy cross and follow me." etc.

Kerry Cox

6

Kerry Cox commented…

Love this, Jesse: "Clearly, we are called to help the poor, and we should be angry when vulnerable people are taken advantage of, but Christ asks us not to be defensive when someone does something to us personally." It bugged me for a long time what felt so wrong at the core with Fox News until I realized this: whereas Christ calls us to become indignant when the poor and vulnerable are taken advantage of, Fox News spends a disproportionate amount of time telling their privileged viewers why they should be mad about the slights THEY are receiving. And since these topics inevitably have a moral slant to them, they whip people into a frenzy that "X" is against God, The Bible, and Family Values. It's Satan's deception at its very best, completely misguided but having the appearance of something Godly.

Wayne Greulich

3

Wayne Greulich commented…

All of these (and there are at least a few more) point to a foundational issue. That issue is that contemporary Christianity fails to realize the full impact of true regeneration and salvation. At issue is the fact that Christ calls us to die to self and this world (including its culture and means of gain and success). When one is truly born again (according to John 3), then a transaction takes place: we exchange our lives, way of doing things, etc. for Christ's life, Lordship, and discipleship.
Scripture likens this to leaving one kingdom (the kingdom of sin, self, and this world) and becoming a citizen of God's kingdom; we depart the kingdom of darkness and enter the kingdom of light; we leave the kingdom of bondage and enter the Kingdom of freedom and victory; we depart the kingdom of sin and enter the Kingdom of God's Righteousness; we depart the kingdom of self and enter the Kingdom of the Spirit and all He gives to us.
The culture of Christ's Kingdom is radically different to that of the world (as illustrated in the Sermon on the Mount and Christ's teachings - and those of His apostles). Yet, we see the contemporary, western church seeking to be like the world supposedly to attract the world. Statistics reveal that the lives of "Christians" are little or no different than those of the unconverted world (e.g. divorce, drug abuse, alcoholism, - and yes, even how we spend our leisure time).
Much of so-called evangelical/charismatic Christianity calls people, not to true repentance and regeneration, but to add Christ to their lives to make them "better," not unlike how one might add a cherry to a sundae to make it better. Often Christ is treated like the slave and modern Christians as the master. Chuck Swindoll refers to this attitude and lifestyle as "a-genie-in-a-Bible" syndrome.
The Scriptures reveal just the opposite - Christ is the Master and calls us to relinquish all for Him and follow Him as His servants.
Our churches are filled with those who've "said the sinners' prayer" (where do you find that in Scripture?) and yet are truly unconverted. They've just accepted a limited set of intellectual beliefs in the hopes of gaining all their wishes in this life and heaven in the next. Sadly, our pulpits are filled with no better - and even worse, those who know better, but will not preach the WHOLE Truth because they might lose their "jobs" if they do.
Those who would be true disciples of Christ will live by a different set of standards than the world around them. They will "be holy, even as He is holy;" they will make people angry because they speak the truth in love; while some may come to the Light, there will be many more who will hate the Light, and hate them, because their deeds are evil and they love the darkness; "All who will live godly in Christ Jesus WILL be persecuted" (2 Timothy 3:12). Christ said in John 15, "If they hated me, they will hate you; if they persecuted me, they will persecute you."
If one, who claims to follow Christ, has not been persecuted in the last year, then is he/she truly living the life of Christ?
May God help us to truly be His disciples and be citizens and ambassadors of HIS Kingdom.

Koketso Makhele

5

Koketso Makhele commented…

Wow Amazing...especially when it came to the wealth part, basically the Love of money is the root of all evil...the love of it, we know that even if we may work and our riches increase we shouldn't set our hearts on it because that's where we start following the common standard of success being measured buy wealth and some may beg to differ because of their wealth lets flip it, would you feel like a failure if you lost you wealth?

I found myself in that situation where I said I don't want dept and hated it and felt like it wasn't what God wanted for me but that's only because having the freedom to do anything or spend anytime our give was comforting, so much so that you actually become a good person but honestly success is trusting God when all things fail and having faith still!

I started not taking care of people most closest to me because I felt they were wasting thins and lots more but it hit me because I was not accepting to suffer more so even for the people I apparently loved!

And you say that If I hate my brother first thing that came to mind is nooooo I love him, I only hate the things he does, which IS in fact hating him because he is his actions, he is the exact person that God commanded I should Love but didn't....
I would say If I knew then what I know now but actually I'm glad I went through it and that I understand in now more than every because now I have an opportunity to love again!!!

This is really Deep

Milton Floyd

4

Milton Floyd commented…

I'm guilty of 4 out of the 5. I'm not rich... not even close.

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