Summary: 1. Jesus is teaching us to stop the cycle of violence and revenge. 2. Jesus is sayi8ng that we have nothing to fear, and there is therefore no reason to seek revenge. 3. Jesus is telling us to take on the nature of God.
• In the movie “Fiddler on the Roof”, Tevye and his neighbors have been informed that the Tsar has evicted all Jews from their village and confiscated their land. There is a great upheaval and anger in the community, as you can imagine. If someone told this to you and all the people in your area, how would you feel, and what would you do? There is talk of an uprising and revolt. One of the villagers says to Tevye, “We should defend ourselves. An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth!” “Very good,” mutters Tevye. “That way the whole world will be blind and toothless.”
• Tevye’s insight is the same as Jesus’ reinterpretation of the Old Testament law. They knew the law was good, as far as it went, but it was inadequate and could perpetuate a cycle of violence. Jesus and Tevye were quoting the book of Leviticus which said, “If anyone injures his neighbor, whatever he has done must be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.” Leviticus 24:19-20
• There were good reasons for this law. First of all, the fear of justice would limit violence. If you realize that if you injure someone that you will be injured in the same way, it gives you pause. And secondly, there was a limit to how far retribution could go. If someone shoves you, according to the law, the most you can do is shove them back, you don’t hit them with a club. If someone kicks you, you cannot legally cut off their leg. If someone shoots you in the arm with a pistol, you don’t shoot them with a shotgun.
• But this is what happened recently. David A. Slagle, an operating room nurse from Lawrenceville, Georgia, tells a wild story about an experience he had: “I served as a nurse in the operating room for several years. One day a couple arrived, both with gunshot wounds. The man had awakened late for his first day on the job because his wife did not set the alarm. He expressed his displeasure by shooting her in the arm. Not to be outdone, she retreated to another room, got a shotgun, and shot him in the arm. As I gathered their paperwork in the preoperative unit, I heard something one would only expect to hear in a country song. Separated by a deputy sheriff and handcuffed to their respective stretchers, the husband began: ‘I love you, baby, and I’m sorry I shot you.’ The wife responded, ‘I love you too, baby, and I’m sorry I shot you.’”
• What is the meaning of what Jesus is saying in our Scripture today?
1. Jesus is teaching us to stop the cycle of violence and revenge.
• Jesus is saying that we are to stop trying to get “one up” on people who have wronged us. We stop trying to get even. We even stop keeping score.
• In Judith Viorst’s book for children entitled I’ll Fix Anthony, Anthony’s younger brother complains about the way his older brother treats him. The little brother says: “My brother Anthony can read books now, but he won’t read any books to me. He plays checkers with Bruce from his school. But when I want to play he says, ‘Go away or I’ll clobber you.’ I let him wear my Snoopy sweatshirt, but he never lets me borrow his sword. Mother says deep down in his heart Anthony loves me. Anthony says deep down in his heart he thinks I stink. Mother says deep deep down in his heart, where he doesn’t even know it, Anthony loves me. Anthony says deep deep down in his heart he still thinks I stink. When I’m six I’ll fix Anthony. . . . When I’m six [and we go swimming] I’ll float, but Anthony will sink to the bottom. I’ll dive off the board, but Anthony will change his mind. I’ll breathe in and out when I should, but Anthony will only go glug, glug. . . . When I’m six my teeth will fall out, and I’ll put them under the bed, and the tooth fairy will take them away and leave dimes. Anthony’s teeth won’t fall out. He’ll wiggle and wiggle them, but they won’t fall out. I might sell him one of my teeth, but I might not. . . . Anthony is chasing me out of the playroom. He says I stink. He says he is going to clobber me. I have to run now, but I won’t have to run when I’m six. When I’m six, I’ll fix Anthony.” Most of us know the feeling of Anthony’s little brother — whether we want to fix a family member, a person at work or a one-time friend who did us wrong.