Summary: Jesus shows us how to go the second mile in our daily walk through life.
Text: “And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two” (Matthew 5:41).
Our Scripture lesson begins with the words, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’” (Matthew 5:38). I don’t know what you think, but I believe that sounds pretty cruel. Can you imagine putting out another person’s eye or knocking out a person’s tooth?
This “eye for an eye” reference can be found in Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20 and Deuteronomy 19:21. This rule was intended to be a guide to help the judges make a decision concerning this type of case. The rule was never intended to give a person the right to seek revenge or to retaliate.
The main objective was to make sure the punishment fit the crime. There were probably countries in Old Testament days where this type of barbaric cruelty took place. This might even happen today in certain countries, but we never hear about it.
Jesus spoke of this punishment so that people would not seek revenge. In fact, Jesus and the Pharisees determined the rule meant that the person who caused injury pay fair compensation to the injured person. This rule is relevant today in that there are parents, judges, employers, teachers and others who must make wise decisions when discipline is to be exercised.
Parents are responsible for raising their children. Parents are supposed to teach their children right from wrong. If this is done properly, the child understands and will most likely not do something to the contrary. This is not always true because those of us who have raised children know there are times we have to make a decision to implement corrective action.
Maybe the little child wandered out into the street. In this case, something must be done to correct the child’s actions. Maybe a teenager was told to be home at a certain time and for some reason came home much later. Perhaps a young person began running around with the wrong crowd and ended up at the police station.
The driver who runs the red light and gets caught must pay some type of penalty. The penalty the driver must pay should not be the same penalty as one caught in the act of robbery. If a person shoots someone, the penalty can’t be the same as the person who is caught in a robbery. If a student skips school, the penalty should not be the same as the penalty for the student who threatens the life of another student or teacher.
I am saying the penalty or punishment must fit the crime. A penalty too cruel or ruthless is unfair. On the other hand, a penalty that is too compassionate or easy going is really useless or powerless. The penalty or punishment must fit the crime.
When someone does something to us that is wrong, the first thing that comes into our mind is that we must get even, retaliate or seek revenge. We tend to want to even the score, but in reality, Jesus says, “But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Matthew 5:39).
I don’t know about you, but it is rather difficult for me to follow those words. I know I should because Jesus said I should. The problem is, I have a sinful nature, and the devil is tempting me to do the opposite of what the Holy Spirit is prompting me to do.
What should we do when we are wronged or hurt by another person? We already know we should not seek revenge, so what are we to do. Jesus tells us to “…forgive men their trespasses…” (Matthew 6:14). Paul gave this advice to the Ephesians: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
If we are a true follower of our Lord Jesus Christ, we will forgive those who do us harm. I am not saying that we should let people run over us. We do need to use our power and strength to protect ourselves, but again keeping in mind fair punishment.
We are not only to forgive, but we are to forget. We cannot completely forgive if we say we will not forget. When we forgive, we may be preventing something else from coming about. On the other hand, if we seek revenge, then there is a good possibility that we will continue to have encounters with the other person.
As Jesus continues to talk, He says, “If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also” (Matthew 5:40). Today’s English Version of the Bible uses these words: “And If someone takes you to court to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well” (Matthew 5:40).