An Eye for an Eye

Reading the Word

Matthew 5:38–42 (ESV) — 38 “You 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 the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Understanding and Applying the Word

“You have heard it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'” Jesus told the people that they had misunderstood these words from the Old Testament Scriptures. Many in our own day have misunderstood them as well. These are not words that point to getting even or exacting revenge on an enemy. No, these are words that speak of justice. These are words that tell us that the punishment must fit the crime. If a person breaks the law, there are consequences, but the consequences should reflect the severity of the crime. We do not sentence a person to life in prison for failing to wear a seatbelt. Nor do we tell the serial killer that he must pay a fifty dollar fine. That would not be justice in either case.

Jesus goes even further than justice for his followers. He tells us that we must be willing to give up our rights and claims for justice in service to the kingdom. We do this to show the kind of love to others that God has shown to us. Christ gave his very life so that we could be saved. We are called to lay down our lives in an effort to save others through the proclamation of the gospel. Are you willing to lay down your life?


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