Christianity 401: Do Not Withhold Your Tunic
Let’s continue our “Graduate Level Christianity” by looking closely at some more of Jesus’s toughest teachings - His relational commands for us, most of which are found in Luke 6, verses 27-36.
Thus far Jesus has commanded us to love our enemies by doing good, blessing, praying for, and foregoing retaliation against them.
His next command seems equally challenging: “and from one who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic” (Luke 6:29b). What does this mean?
To fully grasp the meaning of this command, we must first understand the socio-historical context in which it was given. At the time of this teaching, a cloak was a person’s outer garment, and a tunic was the under garment, a modern-day equivalent of underwear.
In this context, “withhold your tunic” means to shame a person to humiliation. Bottom line: It was an attempt to control people. It was a powerful weapon, used especially by Roman soldiers to control the Jews.
When Jesus commands us to “not withhold our tunic,” He flips the script on humiliation. He is telling His followers to be generous in response to evil. It not only confounds the one trying to control, but it defuses retaliation.
This principle is quite similar to the slap on the cheek. During disagreements and arguments, someone must absorb the final blow. Here, Jesus is teaching His followers to stand down. To be the bigger person. To give our enemies what they want if that’s what it takes to halt their hate.
When we choose to be compassionate and grace-filled in the face of evil, we show our enemies a permanent example of Jesus’s love - one they will have to live with for the rest of their lives. One that will be used against them at God’s judgment seat.
Is it hard to do? Yes. But when rightly followed, it’s an eternal example that love conquers hate. Good overcomes evil.
The world will see that Jesus truly lives in us, empowering us to faithfully follow Him.
And hopefully, they will want to follow Jesus as well.