Sunday, May 20, 2007



Matthew 5:38-42

38 ``You have heard that it was said, `AN EYE FOR AN EYE AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.' 39 ``But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 ``If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41 ``Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 ``Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

Here we are at the last pair of the six issues Jesus has chosen. We've seen the first pair-internal application of the law, referenced by Murder and Adultery. The second pair-the improper emphasis on matters of the law, is referenced by Divorce and Vows. Now we come to the third pair-the ultimate application of the law. This is referenced by today's issue of Retaliation. We'll finish this pair tomorrow with Loving your enemies.

Now this is a tough one. Jesus turns to His way of dealing with RETALIATION. This is one of the most commonly misunderstood concepts in Judaism. Ask most people and they will say that this has something to do with "retaliation in the Old Testament" versus "love and forgiveness in the New Testament." Actually, this isn't true. Judaism never interpreted it in this way. An "eye for an eye" had to do with providing for limited liability in matters of legal compensation. This kept everything in somewhat of a balance. Jesus is teaching here to go beyond the minimum required of you when you are wronged!

This is one of the most radical of all of the teachings of the Kingdom. It seems to fit in with the other teachings about being salt and light. Also, being salt and light in this case will require that you give a blessing to those who insult you. And in so doing, you will blow their minds to the point that they will ask for the reason for the hope that is within you. That person who just slapped you on the cheek is hurting much deeper and much worse than that slap. So, go the extra mile in giving a blessing, for you were created that you might inherit and be a blessing, especially to those who are hurting and become ugly about it. This is the Kingdom way.

These were laws for civil courts to apply, but the scribes and Pharisees interpreted these statements to justify personal retribution and retaliation against their enemies. They used them to take matters into their own hands-REVENGE. However, the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ both teach that vengeance was to be left up to God.

Jesus taught two things here: FIRST-Do not resist an evil person. Not only should you not take vengeance into your own hands, but don't even oppose the evil person when the evil is being done.

SECOND-Respond to evil by doing good. Turn the other cheek. Give more to the person suing you than what was asked. Respond to government oppression by offering to do more than what is demanded. Respond to those who ask for help by giving them what they ask.

NOTE in each case the principle is the same. We are not to resist the person who would mistreat us or who would try to deprive us of our possessions. Instead, respond in a positive manner to demonstrate the love of Jesus toward them by freely giving them more than they were hoping to gain by force, oppression or manipulation.

I see this principle that is so contrary to "human nature" as one of the ultimate ways to fully trust Jesus to come through on our behalf. Maybe if we had the courage to actually have this kind of response, then Jesus might demonstrate Himself among us in a mighty and supernatural way. The next time you are mistreated in some way, take the challenge and look for ways to overcome evil with good. Then your "righteousness" will exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees.

It's like Jesus is saying, "When a person attacks you externally, go deeper and respond to them from the heart with love (internally). If a person slaps you on the cheek, you know that this person must really be in a world of hurt to do that to you. The inner aching in his heart is much worse than a bruise on the cheek. So, hit me again if you must. But I'm going to show you by my response the love of Jesus that you so greatly lack.