Summary: Lesson 17
The apostle Paul, writing to the church in Colosse said, "Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:" (Colossians 1:12-13). In essence, when an individual is saved, they are translated spiritually from one kingdom to another. That is, they are translated from the kingdom of darkness whose ruler is Satan into the kingdom of light whose ruler is the Lord.
As the result of this spiritual translation, believers are now placed in a peculiar situation. In a spiritual sense they are living in a kingdom dominated by righteousness, while in the physical realm they live in a world dominated by sin and ruled by Satan himself. The result is constant conflict. The question that arises at this point is "How does a member of the kingdom of God function in a society manipulated not by the God whom he or she worships, but by a ruler in total opposition to Him?"
I. THE OLD TESTAMENT INJUNCTION
A. The Limitation
1. It is obvious from the Scriptures sited above that the Mosaic Law allowed an "eye for an eye" and a "tooth for a tooth", but nothing more.
2. The idea put forth is that the punishment must fit the crime (Judges 1:6-7).
B. The Administration
1. It should be noted that in each of these passages the context is one of civil justice. The law was not designed to be discharged by individuals who were caught up in personal vendettas, but rather by those who had been placed in judiciary positions.
2. Exodus 21 opens with the words "Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them." The word "judgments" suggests judicial verdicts. Deuteronomy 19 speaks of "the judges, which shall be in those days" (Deuteronomy 19:18).
3. The judicial powers that be are ordained of God and they are to be His instruments for preserving law and order (Romans 13:1-4).
II. THE NEW TESTAMENT INSTRUCTION
Once again we find that the Divine statutes set forth in the Law had been grossly perverted by the scribes and Pharisees. Instead of leaving the punishment of crime to the "powers that be", the Jewish leaders had corrupted the teaching of the Old Testament to the point that people were taking the law into their own hands and avenging their own wrongs.
In an attempt to correct the false teaching of the Jewish leaders and to exhort the people to display a righteousness which exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20), Jesus sets forth His teaching in verses 39-42.
A. Prohibiting Retaliation
1. Jesus prohibited any acts of personal retaliation when He said "resist not evil." However, these words of the Lord do not prohibit us from exercising good sense in defending ourselves, our families, or any others who may be in danger of harm.
2. Retaliation has been the way of human beings since the beginning of time. Our natural reaction when we have been wronged is to get even. Whenever anyone threatens our rights or takes what we think belongs to us, we are inclined to retaliate.
3. If men were left to themselves to meet out judgment and justice as they saw fit, sooner or later the entire world would be blind and toothless.
4. As Christians we are called to a higher standard of conduct than that which is so commonly displayed in the world. This standard of conduct is clearly set forth in the Word of God. We are not to requite evil for evil in thought, word, or deed.
a. Proverbs 20:22; 24:29
d. 1 Peter 2:21-23; 3:8-9
5. Not only are we to refrain from returning evil for evil, but we must return good for evil, blessing those who curse us and praying for those who despitefully use us (Matthew 5:44).
6. A good rule to live by would be that we will not desire or do anything which we could not, in good faith, ask Christ to be a part of.
B. Practicing Restraint
The principle that regulates our actions toward others is a principle found elsewhere in the teachings of Christ. It is the principle of dying to self. Rather than giving in to the evil desires of retaliation, we are called upon by the Lord to exercise restraint in our dealings with others. By taking matters into our own hands we merely feed the selfish, sinful desires of our own human hearts.
It is the Lord’s desire that we exhibit a spirit of selflessness by exercising self-control, self-denial, and self-sacrifice.