Lent – Day 18 – A Study of Matthew 5
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” Matthew 5:39
There are few things in Scripture more difficult to understand and more often misapplied than this one.
First let’s remember what Jesus was not teaching here. He was not teaching passivism, He was not endorsing being a doormat for people to walk over, and He was not saying the abused wife, the abused husband or the abused child or person in any situation where someone seeks to dominate and abuse them, to let yourself be abused and do nothing to oppose them.
The Law of Moses was clear and fair on this matter. It was a one to one response fo
r offences suffered. But it was not perfect, because it could do nothing to stop the patterns of offences.
What Jesus is teaching here has less to do with being slapped in the face than it has to do with stopping the “war.” This is the clue that this is about more than cheek slapping. Notice what He said, “…whoever slaps you on your right cheek…” Does that mean if they slap you on the left cheek, all bets are off? Clearly it does not.
Someone said, if we live by an “eye for and eye” and “tooth for a tooth” we will eventually be a world of blind, toothless beggars unable to do anything for ourselves, groping around in the dark. Just taking another man’s eye because he took yours will never restore your eye. But, when we, by force of love, resist the enemy who feeds on vengeance, hate, violence and death, we are empowered to neutralize and eventually by work of the Holy Spirit change some hearts to seek and follow our Lord Jesus Christ, turning from violence to repentance and salvation.
Anger and violence, pride, arrogance nor revenge wins souls to Christ. What does? It’s His kindness.
“Or are you [so blind as to] trifle with and presume upon and despise and underestimate the wealth of His kindness and forbearance and long-suffering patience? Are you unmindful or actually ignorant [of the fact] that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repent (to change your mind and inner man to accept God’s will)?” Romans 2:4
The question is this? Who is going to stop the cycle of hate and vengeance? Who is going to say, ”This stops with me. I will not retaliate against you, but I will reach to you in an attitude of love and forgive you, I will even go so far as to put my self between you and the righteous judge and take the penalty for you?” That is precisely what Jesus did for all of us. And if we are His body that is exactly what we ought to be doing when we deal with those who offend us, individually, person to person.
This is not the action to be employed by nations against hoards of those evil entities hell bent on our destruction and the murder, abuse and violence against our children and our loved ones. No. Those things must be met and eradicated swiftly with all the weapons at our disposal to protect and defend the innocent, including the innocent in the womb, the weak and the vulnerable. That is our responsibility as a nation of God fearing people. But, where I may have every right to strike back at someone who has done wrong to me, I can choose to take it and not retaliate in kind, but, respond in love and forgiveness knowing that God is with me and He alone will judge and do justly.
But, when I love my enemies, when I do good to those who hate me, when I bless those who curse me and pray for those who spitefully use me, [Luke 6] then I am living the life of Jesus before all men and whether they receive or reject me it is not me they are receiving or rejecting. It is Jesus in us, living through us to the world.