Monthly Archives: August 2010

Jesus’ Sermon Enacted in a Modern Parable

The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 offers a concise statement of the way Jesus intends for his followers to live. The sermon contains cherished passages of scripture: the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6: 9-13), the Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 3-11), the Golden Rule (Matthew 7: 12), and many more. Some who read the lofty ethical standards taught by Jesus smile wryly and excuse themselves, saying something like, “Well . nobody can really be expected to live like that!”

One of the sections of the sermon that may seem most difficult to practice is the following:

[Jesus said,] “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. {39} But I tell you, don’t stand up against an evil person. If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other cheek also. {40} If someone wants to sue you in court and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. {41} If someone forces you to go with him one mile, go with him two miles. {42} If a person asks you for something, give it to him. Don’t refuse to give to someone who wants to borrow from you. {43} “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemies.’ {44} But I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you. {45} If you do this, you will be true children of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on good people and on evil people, and he sends rain to those who do right and to those who do wrong. {46} If you love only the people who love you, you will get no reward. Even the tax collectors do that. {47} And if you are nice only to your friends, you are no better than other people. Even those who don’t know God are nice to their friends. (Mat 5:38-47 NCV)

Many people find these to be nice sentiments, but demur that such actions just aren’t practical.

I want to introduce you to Julio Diaz, who did live this way. I heard his story through a friend’s post of a link on Face Book to the account on NPR. I fervently want to think that Diaz is a follower of Jesus, but nothing is said about his faith. His story is told in his own words as a part of NPR’s Morning Edition segment, Story Corps. Story Corps recordings are archived in the American Folk Life Center of the Library of Congress. You can hear the story by clicking on the following URL, or by cutting and pasting it into your browser:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=89164759 http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=89164759&sc=emaf &sc=emaf

On the webpage, click the “Listen to the Story” link. A transcript of the story from NPR follows:

Julio Diaz has a daily routine. Every night, the 31-year-old social worker ends his hour-long subway commute to the Bronx one stop early, just so he can eat at his favorite diner. But one night last month, as Diaz stepped off the No. 6 train and onto a nearly empty platform, his evening took an unexpected turn.

He was walking toward the stairs when a teenage boy approached and pulled out a knife. “He wants my money, so I just gave him my wallet and told him, ‘Here you go,'” Diaz says.

As the teen began to walk away, Diaz told him, “Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you’re going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.” The would-be robber looked at his would-be victim, “like what’s going on here?” Diaz says. “He asked me, ‘Why are you doing this?'” Diaz replied: “If you’re willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money. I mean, all I wanted to do was get dinner and if you really want to join me … hey, you’re more than welcome. “You know, I just felt maybe he really needs help,” Diaz says.

Diaz says he and the teen went into the diner and sat in a booth. “The manager comes by, the dishwashers come by, the waiters come by to say hi,” Diaz says. “The kid was like, ‘You know everybody here. Do you own this place?'” “No, I just eat here a lot,” Diaz says he told the teen. “He says, ‘But you’re even nice to the dishwasher.'” Diaz replied, “Well, haven’t you been taught you should be nice to everybody?”

“Yeah, but I didn’t think people actually behaved that way,” the teen said.

Diaz asked him what he wanted out of life. “He just had almost a sad face,” Diaz says. The teen couldn’t answer Diaz – or he didn’t want to.

When the bill arrived, Diaz told the teen, “Look, I guess you’re going to have to pay for this bill ’cause you have my money and I can’t pay for this. So if you give me my wallet back, I’ll gladly treat you.” The teen “didn’t even think about it” and returned the wallet, Diaz says. “I gave him $20 … I figure maybe it’ll help him. I don’t know.” Diaz says he asked for something in return – the teen’s knife – “and he gave it to me.”

Afterward, when Diaz told his mother what happened, she said, “You’re the type of kid that if someone asked you for the time, you gave them your watch.”

[Diaz concluded,] “I figure, you know, if you treat people right, you can only hope that they treat you right. It’s as simple as it gets in this complicated world.”

(A Victim Treats His Mugger Right, Story Corps, NPR Morning Edition, March 28, 2008)

Julio Diaz enacted a parable demonstrating Jesus’ words. May each of us embody Jesus’ words in such concrete actions today and every day.

J. Edward Culpepper