Offer no resistance to one who is evil" (Matt 5:39).
The Sermon on the Mount contains Jesus' core teachings for his disciples. The Beatitudes reveal a mysterious and deeply paradoxical invitation to live in between present reality and future ideals. A disciple is to be simple, pure, compassionate, committed to peace and justice, ready to suffer rejection from a world that is none of these visionary values.
It is a radical course, one likely to make disciples both impressive for their idealism but also strange, even pitiable, for their stubborn impracticality. Think of Amish communities, or Quaker pacifists, anti-war activists, even artists who refuse to go commercial in a culture that rewards conformity and praises those who model success and competition.
Even more inexplicable and offensive to modern sensibilities is Jesus' teaching on violence. "Turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, give anyone who asks the shirt off your back" are laughable in a society built on self reliance and stand your ground, my rights and assured retaliation as the best defense. We are bathed in the rhetoric of pushback and get there first. Who could ever get elected to any office based on the Sermon on the Mount? We honor spiritual and religious values, but reserve them to pious sermons.
The teachings of Jesus might have never survived if they had not been lived by Jesus, who suffered the consequences of his idealism to the point of excommunication as a heretic and execution as a criminal. Yet, he also survives in the collective imagination as the one person who exhibited the fullness of everything we say is most human and most praiseworthy. He is also the only person believed to have been raised from he dead as confirmation by God that he had gotten it right.
What are we to do with such a challenge? This is the personal paradox Jesus left us. What might we do today to test the validity of his message in our own way and in our own lives?