Summary: This is about revenge.
The Sermon on the Mount contains many tough sayings. He said that adultery was more than just an act; it was a thought. He said that someone who was angry was also a murderer. Isaiah talked about a world turned upside down. Now Jesus is doing just that.
Read Matthew 5:38-42.
This is a hard saying because we often have valid…
1. Reasons for REVENGE
We can come with a reason to exact revenge on just about anyone. If someone pushes, we push back. It is easy to justify it.
A. We were WRONGED
If someone gets in our way or harms us in any we claim we were wronged. It could be someone cutting in line or causing an accident. Or, it could real big, like someone looking at us funny. We have become expert at finding ways were wronged. Any time that happens, we claim that justice must be served. Look at warning labels.
People in the church are no different. People get upset when they aren’t recognized, or left out, or something.
B. We have RIGHTS
We have invented all sorts of rights. We claim that we have rights to do just about anything. People say it’s “free speech” to put a crucifix in a jar of urine and call it “art.” Judges have determined that we can kill unborn babies because of a “right to privacy.” If someone gets in the way of our rights, we’ll let them know. “You’ll hear from my lawyer!”
People revenge companies all the time for perceived violations of rights. We claim “wrongful termination” even though we never did anything on the job.
C. We can RETALIATE
We take revenge simply because we can. It could be in the form of dragging someone to court or taking matters into our own hands. After all, we were wronged and rights were violated, and the moron who violated our rights needs to be taught a lesson.
It often leads to escalation. One problem we have is that we escalate the matter. Someone looks at us, and we yell. They get in our face. We push them. And on and on.
2. Limited by LAW
To reduce the problem of escalation, the law was made that it would only be “an eye for an eye.” The Law limited the idea of revenge. “The concept of “an eye for any” limited retribution.
A. Limited the AMOUNT
The Law limited the amount of damages that could be exacted for a wrong or violation of someone’s rights. It was no longer a life for an eye. Our penchant to escalate the situation can often result in the loss of life for a minor violation. Even in places in the world today hands are cut off for theft, even minor theft. God’s intent was to stop the escalation of revenge.
B. Limited to AUTHORITIES
The Law also limited who could carry out the revenge. It had to be carried out by the proper people through the proper channels. There was no personal or vigilante justice. If you poked out my eye, it wasn’t my place to poke out your eye. Governmental authorities carried out even the crucifixion of Jesus. It wasn’t mob rule.
3. Conscience of CHRISTIANS
People understood the law. They realized the limitation that the law placed on them, but if they could’ve, they would’ve exacted their own revenge. Jesus looked to the spirit of our actions.
A. Response to INSULT
To be slapped on the right cheek by someone (using the right hand) would be deemed an insult more than a physical attack. It was a calculated insult. Jesus was insulted by being called a friend of sinners, but he didn’t strike back. Sometimes Christians forget this principle and have their feelings hurt because they are left out of something. When the apostles were arrested, in Acts 5, they rejoiced “that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” of Jesus.
B. Response to ILL-TREATMENT
Even the poorest man had a change of tunics, but everyone only had one cloak (which was a robe by day and a blanket by night). No one ever had the right to take another’s cloak. Jesus is saying that we as Christians shouldn’t be crying and screaming about our rights. Some Christians will go to extremes to fight and claw for their rights. As we looked at earlier it was against the law for someone to hold another’s cloak overnight, as it was their blanket.
C. Response to INJUSTICE
The word for force means that anyone in an occupied country could at any moment could be compelled to serve an occupying soldier. It could mean supplying food, a bed, or the carrying baggage. It is the same word used when Simon of Cyrene was compelled to carry Jesus’ cross.