The Ethics of Jesus

David Bast

READ : Matthew 5:38-48

These verses fall into the category of things we might wish Jesus hadn’t said. Turning the other cheek, going the second mile, loving our enemies it all sounds so impossible. Does Jesus actually expect us to try to live this way? He does!

This behavior directly contradicts the way we normally operate. It goes against every human instinct. Our natural rule in relationships is “tit for tat.” Give what you get. Don’t get mad, get even. But Jesus tells us to do good to others, even when they deserve the opposite. We should help people even when they can’t or won’t help us in return. Those are the ethics of Jesus.

Jesus gives us two reasons for living this way. One is that Christians should behave better than non-Christians. “Look,” he says, in effect, “even Nazis can be good to their friends and kind to their children. What’s the big deal about that? I’m expecting much more from you.”

Second, we must also act the way Jesus teaches us because this is how God behaves. We need to repay hostility with love and show mercy to the undeserving because this is exactly what our heavenly Father does. If we really are God’s children, shouldn’t our actions show a family resemblance?


“O God, command what you will, and give what you command. Amen.” (St. Augustine)