Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: (Matthew 5:38)
We'll dive into Christ's response to the above scripture throughout the week, but we first need to know why he addresses it. Until now in this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Christ has addressed the commandments and major laws the Jews have practiced. This phrase does not fit that category, though. It is lifted from the regulatory laws (Exodust 21:24). In this section of the Old Testament, prescriptions were given for how to handle crimes against others. Punishments were to be carried out by officials, not private citizens. It is most commonly understood that the prescriptions given in the Old Testament were guidelines meant to limit punishment rather than opportunities to dole it out. You couldn't take a life for an eye. You couldn't unreasonably sue someone for a minor offense. The language of the law seems harsh but when seen in context, we understand what's going on.
However, in Christ's day, some teachers were encouraging people to put these laws into literal practice and also to take the law into their own hands. It would be like if someone accidentally hit you with their car, you'd be allowed to immediately stand them up and hit them with your car in return. That's the loveless nature that existed in Christ's day and it's why he addresses the issue.
Preserve Your Calling
If we attack each other for every offense given, the whole of humanity will only end up as enemies. We'll rip each other apart and be left as mangled monsters instead of the wonderful creation God has made. It won't just be our money, resources and reputation that will be ruined. Our witness and calling will be tarnished as well. Nobody will listen to a suit happy, revenge minded individual when it comes to hearing about Jesus. We must measure our responses, even when the offense towards us is deserving of punishment. It's not up to us to dole out the punishment, but God and, when necessary, officials who are qualified to objectively do so (i.e. judges, pastors, police officers, etc.)
As Christians, we have the obligation to uphold the idea of mercy and benevolence when offenses come our way. This does not make us the world's punching bag. Just as we will show how Christ and His followers took punishment this week, we'll also examine how they responded to attacks and what those responses produced. We are excited to share these ideas with everyone and hope that what is learned will assist in preserving callings, witnessing opportunities and much more in the Kingdom of God. Bless you and keep searching.
Chris Farris is the author of The Way, a manual detailing how to implement the Beatitudes into your life. He review events and other media and offers other insights into writing and working for the Kingdom of God.