“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.” — Matthew 5:39
The Old Testament law provided for equal justice in civil cases by insuring that the punishment fit the offense. Jesus affirmed this in the Sermon on the Mount by saying, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth'” (Matthew 5:38). The problem for so many in Jesus’ day was that the premise of the law was also being used for personal disputes. Personal retaliation was justified by misinterpreting the true nature of the law. Those seeking personal revenge would justify “an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth.” It is still somewhat common today by the phrase, “Don’t get mad, get even.”
But Jesus has a better way.
I am sure Jesus’ proposals for His better way were met with some resistance on the mountain that day. They certainly are met today with pushback preserving our rights. We have the right to defend ourselves, we have the right to protect what is ours, we have the right to not be forced into any service against our will, and we have the right to keep what is ours. But by pursuing personal revenge to protect our personal rights, we destroy any opportunity we had to show the mercy and love of God.
Christians are to follow Jesus’ example: “The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears; I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away. I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting” (Isaiah 50:5-6). It is not always easy to pursue the better way, especially in unprovoked, unjust circumstances. But our Lord set the example and He will help us through it.
Dr. Benjamin Mays, speaking of the unjust sufferings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said the following: “If any man knew the meaning of suffering, King knew … and yet this man had no bitterness in his heart, no rancor in his soul, no revenge in his mind; and he went up and down the length and breadth of this world preaching non-violence and the redemptive power of love” (Coretta Scott King, “My Life With Martin Luther King Jr.”; Hodder & Stoughton, 1970; pp.365-369.)
Yes, there is A BETTER WAY.
— Loring Schultz
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