#33 – What the Gospels Teach – An Eye for and Eye – Matthew 5:38-42

"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 an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. "If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. "Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. "Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38-42 NASB)

Well it is good to be back to posting. Unfortunately I do not have much time today to post, but I do not want to let it slide, so here it goes. It is important to recall from previous posts what the

structure of Matthew 5:17-48. You will recall that Matthew 5:17-20 is an introduction to

this section, which essentially declares that Jesus is not coming to destroy the law, but fulfill it, and ultimately that in order to enter the kingdom our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. In other words our righteousness must surpass the letter of the Law. In Matthew 5:21-47 you find Jesus laying out principles for exceeding the letter of the law using various laws as examples. Jesus uses this passage to train his disciples (the crowds were absent) how to exceed the letter of the law. The pattern Jesus uses is to first state the law. Second he states what the intent of the law was. Third He explains how to practically exceed the letter of the law in righteousness. You will find in previous posts examples of this with murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, and in the case of this passage retaliation.

Jesus states the Law: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

Jesus states the intent: Do not resist an evil person. (Note that ‘an eye for an eye’ was in a sense a way to reduce a penalty from being greater than the crime).

Jesus states how to exceed the Law: If someone strikes you on one cheek, offer the other as well. If someone sues you for your cloak, give him your tunic also. I someone forces you to go with them a mile, go with them two miles. Give to everyone who begs and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

This is a difficult passage for many, and it flies in the face of the militant Christianity that is so pervasive today. Christian pacifism is an important thing, the Christian is a pacifist. Pacifist Christianity has seemed to be hijacked by the liberals and altogether discarded by conservatives and that is unfortunate. As a Christian you must be a pacifist. Certainly we are not speaking about wars, and peace protests and such, any coward can join a big group of people at a peace rally and moreover any coward can show up at some silly meeting about how God believes everyone should have guns (they just had one in Toledo.) The issue is not guns or peace rallies, I am neither for nor against either. The issue is this, are you a peacemaker? When someone defames your character do you defend it, or do you turn the cheek and expose yourself to more defamation? Your call is to turn the other cheek. When unjustly takes something from you, do you let it go and offer that someone more? Or do you seek to justify yourself and rectify the situation? This teaching is very difficult for us conservative fundamentalists, it really is, and so many times we right off these words in the name of ‘self-defense’ or being strong or whatever. The call truly is to be humble, and allow yourself to be walked all over.

If you are liberal and reading this, realize that the call to Christian pacifism in this verse is a very personal one, not a call to some great cause, but a call for you to personally lay down your life. We ought not take verses that are intended for the individual and apply them as though they are a corporate mandate for a nation or people group.

Well I hope that was not too much of a bore, but I have to get going now.

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