Summary: Most action movies have some aspect of revenge in their storyline. When the bad guy finally gets killed, I agree with the hero as he says, “The guy was a jerk and deserved everything he got!” Am I the only one? Jesus challenges my thinking!
Matthew 5 – Part 19 – “BUT THE GUY IS A JERK AND DESERVES IT!”
Most action movies I have seen have some aspect of revenge in their storyline. And I must admit it, when the bad guy finally gets killed, I am there saying on the inside “The guy was a jerk and deserved everything he got!” Am I the only one? Is “jerk” a swearword?
Some friends of mine were driving me home one night when we came across a drunk man walking home and because we knew him, we offered him a lift. He was an alcoholic friend and we had been encouraging him to take action and get help.
While he was in the car we talked to him about other things, but as he got out I expressed my concern with his drunkenness and encouraged him to find help. All of a sudden he was furious. He dragged me from the car and was extremely offended that I should suggest that he even had a problem. How dare I judge him! He began to hit me in the face. His blows stung at first but as he continued, my head became numbed.
I thought how crazy this was – a drunk man beating me up and I could not even fight my way out of a wet paper bag. It took some time for my friends to get him off me. I had no choice but to offer him the other cheek, but is this the kind of thing Jesus is advocating in Matthew 5:38-48. If I had known how to fight I am sure I would have defended myself and perhaps injured him. As it was, some time later, he apologized to me so sincerely, and we prayed together as he admitted that he really did have a problem.
Jesus says in Matthew 5:38-48 (NLT) “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow. “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
Sometimes I look at passages like this and think that Jesus is so naïve. In my arrogance, I am wrong of course. When I think it through it makes a whole lot more sense than first meets the eye. Thanks Lord.
God’s focus seems to be for me to show mercy, rather than get my own back. I can make a choice not to press charges. I am to look for other ways which will preserve the relationship above my rights for justice whenever this is possible.
Actually getting revenge is all about me and the wrong done to me. It’s essentially SELF CENTRED and rather destructive in the sense that it desires to strike out towards another person to gain satisfaction, and that person ends up ruling my life. That can’t be right!
What about when someone gets divorced and they need to go to court and get a settlement? What about taking justice on a murderer? Yeah, I know. Sometimes justice inevitably will be served. Jesus isn’t saying there’s anything wrong with the law. But I know one woman who was ruled by vengeance and holding onto her rights. She was miserable because she lived her life thinking of new ways to get even. Her ex-husband was actually exercising more control than he had ever had over her, without any contact with her at all! When she let it go, she was a much happier person and so much easier to talk to.
Jesus is just saying I don’t always have to take it to the limit and mete out my pound of flesh. He’s not saying I am never to resist evil. Just see the law from the standpoint of wanting to exercise mercy rather than get vengeance or mete out the last bit of justice. I’m glad God doesn’t choose vengeance on me before mercy! Taking my friend to court for beating me up would not have led to anything but misery, for him and me. Jesus says in effect “Don’t look for ways to retaliate! Look for ways to bring something good out of a bad situation. Offer forgiveness.”