Jesus' teachings were so unlike those of the Pharisees and Sadducees who burdened the people with an endless list of rules which accomplished no good thing for anyone. Jesus, on the other hand, admonished the doing of many acts, but all with the purpose of showing God-like love for others while deepening the spiritual experience of the doer.
In the following passage, from Matthew 5:38-42, not only do we find correct behaviors to practice towards others, but an apparent call to pacifism. "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away."
"Resist not evil" means we should not do what comes naturally -- return violence with violence. Paul understood Jesus' words when he said "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves. . . Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" Romans 12:19, 21.
In the case of a lawsuit where your coat, the inner garment, is demanded, why would Jesus say to let him also have the cloak, the outer garment? Here is an interesting possible explanation. This would leave one basically without clothing. To look on one in this condition would shame the viewer which might serve as an opening for the viewer/abuser to see the shame of their deed.
Then there is going the second mile. The first mile could be demanded by law of any Roman soldier. When the Christian offered to go the second also, they were doing it by choice. In this sense, they were in charge. This concept is still valid today.
Jesus has called His followers to do the unthinkable. "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" Matthew 5:44. While we are never to return violence with violence, it is an active pacifism that we are to exercise. We are not victims. We can choose to be like our Example, Jesus Christ.
Kathryn Irizarry is a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.