Matthew 5:38-42 (NLT)
Teaching about Revenge
38 “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’[a] 39 But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. 40 If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. 41 If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile,[b] carry it two miles. 42 Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.
As a Christian, I am not exempt from the desire to retaliate upon those who I feel have somehow wronged me or someone I love. In fact, in the verse above, Jesus talks about that exact thing. In the Old Testament, the law of “eye for an eye” is talked about several times. Those who know that verse can be awfully confused when they come to the book of Matthew and see that Jesus says, “If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.” Does this actually mean that I am to not defend myself? Really? I was told once that I was a waste of a human being. So what do I do? Do I continue to allow that person to berate me?
Now I believe that God wants the best for all of us, he doesn’t want us to hurt and what I hear from that verse is not a renouncement of self-defense but a heart of “don’t hold a grudge”. For many years, Hubby and I walked through this world of constant frustration and anger at our ex-spouses. Now, obviously I can’t speak for his journey, but I know that mine was filled with days of calculating the “right” thing to say to “get them” for what they said to me. I held so tightly to the principal of the matter that I couldn’t even see that I was poisoning myself with the constant bitterness and distancing myself from God when I chose to focus on that anger.
So then what does He go on to say?
Teaching about Love for Enemies
43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’[a] and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies![b] Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends,[c] how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Love your enemies?! Are you freakin’ kidding me? Doesn’t he know what so-and-so has done to ME?!
Well of course He does. He knows everything. His son was nailed to a cross. His son was beaten, mocked and persecuted. He knows. Beyond this verse, where Jesus instructs us to pray for those who persecute us – nailed to the cross, Jesus forgave. (Luke 23:34)
So how do we apply it? How do we take this teaching and example and use it in our time and our lives?
I think really, at the core of it, is to just start by realizing that just like he forgave us… we need to forgive them. We don’t forget, we still set boundaries. We forgive our children if they steal from us, but we don’t leave our money out in the open.
Next, we need to realize that we don’t deserve forgiveness – but we were given it and given it unconditionally.
Lastly, we need to see them how God sees them. He made nothing ugly – everything is beautiful in his sight.
I’m not a biblical scholar… and I might have this all wrong, quoted the wrong scripture.. applied it funny. But really, at the end of the day, what is easier for you? To continue to live in a state of frustration, anger and rage at those who really aren’t really affected by those feelings or to just release them and forgive?
I don’t know who said it… but they said, “Unforgiveness is the poison we drink hoping someone else will die.”