An Eye For An Eye

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“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” -Matthew 5:38–42

The portions of Scripture in the Old Testament (Deut 19:20–21, Ex 21:24, Lev 24:20) where ”an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” are quoted is intended to be used as a means of maintaining civil justice by the government, and not personal retaliation. Jesus is not teaching that Christians are to be pacifists. He is not teaching that Christians have no right to defend themselves, nor protect others.

Christians need to follow the example of Christ. He was despised and rejected by men. When he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, he opened not his mouth. We are to be motivated by the law of love. If someone seeks to insult you by slapping you on the face, Jesus bids you to give your other cheek for yet another insult. If someone wants to bring you to the court of law to take away some piece of property, Jesus would rather you give up your belongings instead of head off to an earthly judge. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 6:7:

“To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?”

I think the main take away from Jesus’ words here is that Christians are not to be eager to take personal revenge upon another. It exemplifies our Lord and Savior when we suffer wrongly for the sake of the one who took the blame for our crimes.

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