In last week’s blog post, I mentioned a common teaching method used by itinerant Rabbis in Jesus’ time.
“You’ve heard it said…..but I say to you” was a common teaching phrase used by Rabbis to make a point.
In Matthew 5:38-39, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.“
Known as ‘lex talionis’ or ‘the law of tit for tat,’ this law can be found in the Old Testament book of Leviticus 24:19 & 20; “Anyone who inflicts a permanent injury on his or her neighbor shall receive the same in return; fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The same injury that one gives another shall be inflicted in return.”
This law seems harsh, but it was actually designed to moderate vengeance. This law gave people the right to retaliate, but prevented them from inflicting excessive injury on someone as they retaliated.
If someone caused you to lose one tooth, you had the right to take away one tooth from them, but not two. If someone caused you to lose your left eye, you could remove their left eye, but not the right, and not both eyes. In other words, the punishment should not exceed the injury done.
But Jesus, who ‘came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it,” (Matthew 5:17) challenges the notion of any type of retaliation at all. The footnote in the New American Bible reads, “Jesus forbids even this proportionate retaliation.”
Once again Jesus is challenging us to refrain from retaliation when we are wronged. Jesus teaches that we should step beyond our rights….in Love. He says, “…offer no resistance to one who is evil…”
When I’m hurt by someone, they’re typically not evil people. It’s usually in the course of everyday living, with good people who are close to me, that I suffer some kind of hurt.
I don’t know about you, but for me it takes a lot of prayer and strength to ‘offer no resistance.” My natural reaction to hurtful incidents is to become angry and retaliate. But Jesus says I shouldn’t. So I need to stay prayerful, and remain connected with God in order to avoid the natural tendency to react angrily.
Let’s pray about how we are to incorporate this teaching of Jesus into our daily lives. After all the bible is just a series of stories if we don’t act on what we learn.
Next time we’ll learn the Deeper Meaning of Jesus’ admonition to
“turn the other cheek”
In Christ’s Peace…