Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount gives us four ways to exercise His true teachings by dying to self. In D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ fine exposition of Matthew 5:39-42, he emphasizes that before we make any effort to follow Jesus’ teachings it is important to have an attitude and a mind that is prepared by the Spirit.
1. Instead of resisting an evil person that slaps us on the cheek, we should turn the other cheek also (v. 39). As a Christian we are not to be concerned with our own personal injuries or comfort. We are to be indifferent to self, believing that God will care for us. However, if we believe that the man who struck us is out of control and has a problem with anger, or a drug problem, or any other thing, it may be good to show him his problem and try to restrain him for his own good. This is the Christian response.
2. Don’t insist on your legal rights if someone is trying to sue you for a shirt. Instead, give him your coat also (v. 40). Again, God wants us to lay down our life for others. He wants us to trust Him for whatever we need. We are not to expect an evil (unchristian) person to do anything good to us. But if we have an opportunity to help them in any way and put them on the path to God, do it. Do it not for your good but for theirs—for their salvation.
3. If someone compels you to go one mile, go with him two miles (v. 41). Jesus here is speaking of the custom of the Roman government to compel any Jew to carry baggage from one place to another. They had the presumed authority to do this because they had conquered the Jews and had control over them. We are not in the same situation as the Jews were in that time, but the teaching holds for us also. If someone is trying to make us do something for them, we are not to resist them, but we should gladly agree to do it and more. That glad attitude is of Christ, and it will speak loudly of our Christianity.
4. Give to anyone who asks you for a something or wants to borrow something (v. 42). We should give with the attitude that all we have is from Him. We must be willing to give it away if God so desires it of us. We must hold it with an open hand and be willing to let it go. On the other hand, we should be wise and discerning. There are many swindlers and professional beggars our there. Give only to those who have real needs. And to the swindlers, try to lead them in the right way if you can.