25 January 2018
GraceNotes – A Journey of Discovery
Scripture: Matthew 5:38-42 (Click link for scripture in Bible Gateway)
38 “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. 40 If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. 41 If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. 42 Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.” (Matthew 5:38–42 NLT)
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth! The law of revenge was given to Moses as part of the process of transitioning God’s people from primitive tribal behavior to civilized behavior patterns. The law of revenge or retribution was restrictive, limiting the act of revenge, not permissive, encouraging vengeful behavior. (See the story of Levi and Simeon’s revenge for their sister’s rape in Genesis 34:1-31.) Before Moses’ law, if someone wronged you or a family member, if you had the strength to do so, you might wipe out their whole family or village in revenge. Under Moses’ law, only the guilty person would be punished. From this law comes, “Let the punishment fit the crime.”
Jesus introduces a new law, the Law of Love. Moses’ law of revenge restricted anger-driven reaction. Jesus’ law develops love-motivated initiative. If you’re living by the law of retribution, the person who hurts or offends you is in control of your behavior. They slap you, you slap them back. Now we’re even! Living by Jesus’ law of love, they slap you, you don’t react. You choose not to allow them to dictate your response. The soldier demands you carry his gear for the required mile, you keep going another mile. The first mile, the soldier is in control, the second mile, you’re in control.
Jesus’ Law of Love allows you to live above revenge and retribution. Love puts you in control of your attitude and your behavior. When we live by Jesus’ Law of Love, our attitudes, words, and actions are governed by the love of Jesus inside us and not the behavior, attitudes, and actions of others toward us. It’s not always going to be easy, friends, but it’s the better way!
Father, This is really a challenge! It seems like “getting even” is hard-wired into us. Please work grace in us to love the Law of Love more than we love the law of revenge and getting even. We want to experience the deep satisfaction and joy of being initiators and not reactors, of being controlled by love and not by what others do and say. We’re going to need a lot of help with this. May it be so!