Jesus said, “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.” (Matthew 5:38-39)
Far too many people in this world know what it feels like to be hit. Child abuse, spouse abuse, road rage, Black Friday scuffles, and fan altercations at sporting events are just a few of the ways you can find yourself on the receiving end of a punch.
The Old Testament says that you are free to respond in kind. “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” And make no mistake: this was a good law that accomplished 3 important things:
Number one, it served as a deterrent to crime. People knew they were going to get done to them whatever they did to someone else.
Number two, it provided justice. Simple, swift, and unerring.
And number three, it prevented people from overreacting by placing a limit on what you could do in response to an offense. You could never do more to your enemy than he did to you.
So the “eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth” law was a good law. But Jesus came along and raised the bar by saying, “In the name of love, give up your right to hit back.”
Recently, I was talking this over with a friend. He’d been mistreated and was running through various “eye for an eye” scenarios. He came up with some options that even I had to admit would have amounted to poetic justice. I found myself almost wanting him to choose one of those options for the sheer joy of seeing the offending party get his comeuppance.
But in the end he decided that, as sweet as it would have been to see his offender get a taste of his own medicine, the kingdom of God would not be served by that option. He said, “I only have a witness for Christ if I behave differently from the world.”
If you’re a Christian and you’re looking for a guiding principle for this new year–a statement to stick on your computer screen or bathroom mirror or the dash of your car–try that statement on for size.
“I only have a witness for Christ if I behave differently from the world.”
Those 14 words will serve you well in every tricky situation you face.