Prepare to Listen. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.
Prayerfully Read Matthew 5:38-42
38You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’” They’d heard it often. It appears three times in the Law of Moses. It was used, and still is today, to justify taking revenge, even in violent ways. Jesus will have none of it. But his response is shocking: “But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer.” Seriously? Surely evil doers, I mean bullies, murderers, rapists, abusers, and the like, must be resisted and punished? What was Jesus thinking?
Maybe the questions to ponder are: What are we thinking using this verse to justify personal revenge? And, more importantly, How ought we to think and behave? The scribes and Pharisees took a popular verse and interpreted it to justify their desire for revenge against an enemy. The law doesn’t support this interpretation. It makes clear that vengeance belongs to God who will repay in God’s way not ours. ‘An eye for an eye,’ isn’t about revenge. Rather it’s about the kind of punishment to impose on the offender. Punishment must fit the crime and must not be excessive. We’re not to “repay anyone evil for evil,” but, as far as possible, “live peaceably with all,” as Paul taught. Not resisting an evil doer means, as Stott notes, not taking “revenge on someone who wrongs you.” Yes, wrongdoers should be punished, but not for the sake of personal revenge.
How is Jesus’ teaching challenging the way you think today?
Respond in Prayer
Forgive me, Lord, when my instinct is for revenge against one who has hurt me. Give me the grace and courage to strive to live, as far as it depends on me, at peace with others. Amen.
Live Obediently. Live peaceably with all.
 Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20 and Deuteronomy 19:21.
 See Romans 12:19 that quotes from Deuteronomy 32:35.
 Romans 12:17-18.
 Stott, John R. W. Christian Counter Culture: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 1978, p. 105.
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Despite having frequently read and taught Matthew's Gospel, preparing these daily devotions, taking that second gaze, has surprised me with newness.