Jessica Albritton, Family Connections Minister, LHBC

Matthew 5:38-48
“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 the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I recently heard a story about two siblings. Brother and sister are playing nicely in the playroom when all of a sudden mom hears crying. And this is not one of those fake cries kids will often have when they don’t get their way, this one was the real deal, snot and tears and all. Mom rushes in and sees brother all in a tizzy, and after a minute or so mom finally gets to the bottom of what is going on. Sister bit and she bit hard. Mom takes the brother to the kitchen, washes the wound and kisses the boo-boo, but that doesn’t seem to satisfy the brother. He is still mad. So mom gets on his level and has a word with him. “Honey, you are ok. She doesn’t know any better. She has to learn that we don’t bite. She didn’t mean to hurt you. Can you forgive her?” Through his tears the brother agrees and soon after brother and sister are playing again. All’s right with the world. Mom leaves but after a minute she hears screaming once again. This time however when mom rushes in she sees not the brother in a tizzy but the sister. Mom looks to brother and asks, “What happened?” The brothers response, “Don’t worry mom, she knows now.” 

You know, I resonate with that little boy more than I care to admit… I believe so often it’s easy to want to pay others back for the wrongs they have done to us. The innate response is, “I have been hurt so you should feel my pain.” Many Jews at that time felt the same way and Jesus addressed this urge to give pay back in what we refer to now as His Sermon on the Mount. In verse 38 Jesus brings up an Old Testament law “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” You see in that time Jews had a standard for retaliation and it was basically, “if it happens to ya you can give it right back to em.” The law however was originally in reference to a very specific situation where a woman goes into premature labor as a result of being hit by another caught up in a tussle. If the pregnant woman or baby was injured or killed due to someone else’s carelessness or recklessness, her husband had the legal right to seek restitution for harm done to his family. But somewhere between the 1,300 years when the law was given and the time Jesus addressed it many had misconstrued it. Instead of it being a standard judges used to award damages after a loss it was now a means to justify petty retaliation. 

Jesus sought to not only clarify the misunderstanding, but also to give a new standard. Jesus goes on in verse 44 to encourage believers to love our enemies and pray for those that persecute us. This is drastically different from the misunderstood practice of “eye for an eye,” and if I am honest, something I often struggle with. I am definitely a work in progress but I am trying! How about you? Do you love your enemies and pray for your persecutors or is your default to retaliate? Do you strive to give Jesus or lose your Jesus? Pray today that the Lord gives you patience in those trying situations and wisdom and understanding on how to respond! 

Heavenly Father, give me Your grace! Lord, when I am wronged help me to love like You and respond in a gracious and kind way. Lord, may my default be to turn the cheek in order that others may inquire of You! In Jesus name, amen!

Psalm 125:2
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
    so the Lord surrounds his people,
    from this time forth and forevermore.