Summary: We are most like Christ when we learn to love our enemies.
Retaliate with Love
One winter day a man went shopping at a local mall. When he returned to his car he noticed a foul odor coming from under the hood of his car. When he popped the hood, he discovered a dead mutilated cat that had slept on the warm engine and had gotten caught by the engines fan belt.
The man felt terrible. He found an extra plastic shopping bag and began to scrape the remains of the dead cat into the bag. He then closed the hood of his car and left the bag on top of the hood while he went back into the mall to wash his hands. As he was returning to his car, he noticed a woman was suspiciously eyeing the plastic bag on the hood of his car. She looked both directions, grabbed the bag from the hood, and rushed off with her shopping cart towards the mall.
“Well this is too good to be true!” The man thought as he laughed at the bag snatching woman. So he decided to follow her and see what would happen next.
She went into a restaurant in the mall and proceeded to open the plastic bag to see what she had stolen. As she opened the bag, she let out a blood curdling scream, and then fainted, hitting her head on the floor.
The management of the restaurant went into a panic and called the paramedics. They quickly arrived, strapped the woman on to a gurney and started to load her into an ambulance parked outside of the mall. But the man couldn’t resist just one more dig.
He ran after the woman on the gurney carrying the bag she had left in the mall restaurant. He shouted, “Hey lady! Don’t forget your package!” And with that he gently laid the bagged cat corpse on the lady’s chest as she was loaded into the ambulance and driven away.
There is something in our fleshly human nature that just loves to get even. When we have been bullied, or injured, or mistreated, or attacked, our emotions well up inside of us and all we can think of is revenge or retaliation. You hurt me and I’m going to hurt you back. You mistreat me and I’m going to be mean and nasty to you. You yell at me and I’m going to yell back at you. Our flesh takes over and we often make matters only worse.
Jesus did not act this way. And He challenges his followers, sons and daughters of the kingdom of God to follow and entirely new way of handling those who mistreat and harm us. We can find his words beginning in Matthew 5:38
He challenges us not to seek revenge, but to retaliate with love!
"You have heard that the Law of Moses says, ’If an eye is injured, injure the eye of the person who did it. If a tooth gets knocked out, knock out the tooth of the person who did it.’ But I say, don’t resist an evil person! If you are slapped on the right cheek, turn the other, too. If you are ordered to 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.
1. The Law was given to restrain revenge!
What is often misunderstood when we read these words is to think that Jesus opposed what the Law of Moses had instructed the children of Israel to do. Of course He would not oppose His Father’s Law. God had given these instructions to the Israelites, and Jesus had said that He did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.
So why was the command given to extract and eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth?
We must remember several things.
- The world was a lawless and godless place, where revenge was carried out without any sense of justice or fairness. Someone could steal from you and you would act as judge and jury, pursue the thief and murder him for what he had stolen from you.
- And so God instructed the Israelites to be balanced and fair in their court of law. The punishment should fit the crime.
- This was not always understood as a literal payment for sin. But the value of the crime must equal the value of the payment. If you in anger injured a man’s eye, then you must pay that man recompense for the crime you have committed against him. He would have lost wages, or suffered for his injury. You must understand this, and make restitution.