Matthew 5:38-39 – 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for an eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (NIV).
A few years ago, our family was driving home from one of Jack’s soccer games, and our boys had a friend in the back seat with them. They were getting along really well. Then, all of a sudden, Jack blurted out, “Hey, Noah spit on me!” Not two seconds later, Noah countered, “He spit on me first!”
Heidi told both of them to quit spitting, and I decided it was time for a teaching moment. I said to Noah, “When Jack does something he’s not supposed to, he is the one who’s going to get into trouble, not you. But if you do the same thing back to him, you’re both going to get into trouble. Do you like getting in trouble?”
“No,” he replied.
I finished, “Don’t do something wrong just because someone else does.”
That little altercation between our boys got me to thinking about the lesson Jesus taught in Matthew 5. Under the Old Covenant, Israel was taught to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, and bruise for bruise (Exodus 21:23-25). Jesus introduced a new methodology. He taught not to resist an evil person, but instead to absorb his blows without retaliation. He demonstrated this principle on the cross.
1 Peter 2 :23 – When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats (NIV). We should learn from His example.
Revenge is instinctual, but it is not the way of love. Taking an eye for an eye leaves you and the other person blind in one eye. Taking a tooth for a tooth leaves you both looking like hockey players. Noah and Jack were both left covered in spit. Exchanging wrongs leaves both parties hurt. So how should you respond when someone wrongs you? Jesus entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly, and you should too (1 Peter 2:23b).