Jesus' Sermon: Intention of the Law on Retaliation

(5) The fifth illustration has to do with retaliation

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' (Matthew 5:38 ESV)

This was a famous law even in Jesus’ day, what the Romans called the “Lex Talionis,” the law of “tit for tat.” 

It was an ancient and universal law, found even in the Code of Hammurabi. When God gave this law, it was for mercy. Before this law, people took revenge at a level above the offense. If a person killed someone, for example, then the family of that someone would come back, kill the murderer, and then wipe out his whole family for good measure. 

God put a stop to this kind of retaliation by requiring that the recompense should be no more than an equal match to the offense. 

This principle is intended for daily life. In personal relationships, you and I are not to develop a spirit of retaliation – we are to trust that with God. It doesn’t mean that we can’t defend ourselves in a dangerous situation, it doesn’t mean that people who do wrong shouldn’t be brought to court. What it means is that you and I are called to give love and mercy in return for unkindness

"But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matthew 5:39 ESV)

* If someone is mean to you, then you are kind and loving back to them. 

* When you receive a hurt, trust God with it, and don’t give the hurt back. 

* Stay faithful in relationships where the other person is hard to get along with, even though you would far rather not have them be in your life anymore.

"And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well." (Matthew 5:40 ESV)

If you are forced to give up something, don’t indulge in resentment and bitterness over it, just give back good for the evil that was done to you

This can happen at the most mundane level. 
--> Everybody makes you go eat at the Mexican restaurant even though you wanted to go get hamburgers. 
--> It was your turn in line, and someone else cut in. 
--> Your friend tells a secret about you and you are forced to admit it’s true. 

"And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles." (Matthew 5:41 ESV)

A Roman soldier in that day could force someone to carry his load for a mile. Grace goes the second mile

In all of these examples, God is interested in what’s going on in your heart. God loved you and me when we did not love Him. Time and time again we offended God, and grieved Him, and hurt Him with our sin. He continued to persevere with us until we began to love Him back. Aren’t you thankful that God faithfully loves you like that? He calls you and me to show the same faithful love to the people He’s put in our lives.

"Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you." (Matthew 5:42-43 ESV)

* Who in your life is asking something from you, and it would be a real sacrifice to give it? 

* Or you are reluctant to give it because they don’t really deserve it? 

* Or you’re pretty sure they would not use what you’re giving them in a way that you would approve of? 

* Or they are in no position to give back to you, or to repay you? 

* Or you simply would like to keep whatever it is for yourself?

All passages taken from the New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.