“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 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.”
Jesus now turned to the subject of retaliation (5:38-42).
“You have heard that it was said,
Jesus referred to the civil law of retaliation in the nation Israel. This was a law of compensation; that is, a legal basis for adequate compensation for loss.
‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’
We find the words “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” in the Old Testament (Ex 21:24; Le 24:20; De 19:21) referring to the national law of retaliation. This law protected the innocent and guaranteed the limits of retaliation. It made sure that the punishment doled out fit the crime. If someone knocked out your tooth, you had the right to knock out his tooth. This law prevented the offended person from taking law into his own hands and using any retaliation he wanted. It was a limitation of degree of revenge.
But I say to you,
Jesus emphatically (Greek) contrasts the economy of His kingdom with the Old Testament economy under the nation Israel. We must not lose sight of the fact that Jesus spoke to the nation Israel in this address. Thus, He spoke of a contrast between the Old Testament kingdom of Israel and His new Messianic kingdom presently offered.
Do not resist the one who is evil.
Although the law of retaliation protected rights of the innocent, people of the kingdom do not have to use this law.
But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Kingdom standards go beyond retaliation. Jesus gave four examples of how to use legal rights in a national entity.
Slapping on the “right cheek” was an insult. The kingdom ideal operates on the standard of non-retaliation.
Retaliation violates kingdom standards.
Vengeance and vendettas do not fit the standards of those in the kingdom.
When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 1 Pe 2:23
This passage speaks of Jesus’ undeserved suffering. People blasphemed Jesus and mocked Him, yet He did not retaliate. He never compromised His character.
Jesus did not give tit for tat. He was not in the business of getting even. Some of us would even the score though it would kill us–and it might! By nature we are vindictive. Vindictiveness will eat our hearts out. It will sour our spirits.
How unlike the Savior we are. As soon as someone starts a rumor about us, we get on our high horse. Our backs arch like a cat’s. We show our fangs. We are ready to do battle. If given a chance, we would hang their hides on the wall.
We are still in kindergarten spiritually compared to our Lord. We believe that we must defend ourselves and vindicate ourselves. When it came to this kind of thing, our Lord Jesus was not concerned about His reputation.
Are you willing to leave retaliation in God’s hands? This is not to imply that we are to be passive in our relationships. Jesus often confronted those around him, but He was not vindictive.
Jesus did not threaten His accusers with harm. He did not say, “I’ll get even. I’ll get the Father after you.” Christians are playing away from home. We forget that we are in a world hostile to Christ. We will not get a break from the umpire here.