April 18, 2016
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
My youngest son, Sam, who is 10 now, is a revenge taker. He is an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth kid. Whether it a brother or sister, a friend or even a parent, Sam will find a way to get his “payback,” as he calls it. I asked him once why he was so determined to get other people back for anything they had done to him. I will always remember his reply, “Dad, I’m just a get-back kind of person.”
The truth is the human race is a get back kind of race. It’s why the history of the world might be described as a history of war. The interesting thing about today’s text is it actually represents a quite merciful approach to human conflict. Prior to the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai, it was more like a bullet for a bruise. The “eye for eye” approach brought justice into the realm of what the law calls proportionality.
What on earth is Jesus doing here? If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. This seems absurd. Let’s be clear, Jesus is not talking about a spat between friends, where it might be a shade more understandable. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. And note further, Jesus is not telling us to just let it go when we are treated unjustly by our enemies and oppressors. He says take it a step further and say something to the tune of, “Thank you sir may I have another.”
Clearly, this is not about tolerating domestic abuse in the home. This brings to mind Martin Luther King’s leadership of the Civil Rights movement. Jesus advocates for a kind of non-violent resistance. He shows the unimaginable way power is overcome by powerlessness.
Paul offers an interesting rationale in his articulation of Jesus’ approach.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
This is how people who believe in God approach their enemies.
Jesus says not only can we not be a “get back kind of person,” but that we must be a “give them a chance to get us again” kind of person. Paul takes it a step further, telling us to treat them to dinner.
1. How about you? Are you a “get back kind of person?”
2. It requires immense trust in God to not take matters into your own hands and retaliate against an injustice. Do you have that kind of trust? What does it say about us and our faith when we move toward a justifiable retaliation?
3. Think of a situation where an enemy has wronged you. Now think about how you might approach that situation with this radical teaching of Jesus in play. Can you imagine it?
J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. email@example.com.