“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” —Philippians 2:3
Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 15:7-14; Matthew 5:38-42
Vengeance can make us do incredible things. A man required to pay over $1,000 in alimony each month was so vengeful, he decided to send it to his wife in nickels. Vengeance and retaliation are the subjects Christ addresses in the next passage in the Sermon on the Mount.
Just as many principles from the Old Law had been misconstrued by the Jews of Jesus’ day, so too had the principle of an eye for an eye. In the Old Law, an eye for an eye was the principle of compensation, especially as a way of ending feuds between people or families. Exodus 24:22-36 outlines how compensation should be rewarded to the offended party, but the hard-heartedness of Christ’s day turned this principle into vengeance. Literally, people could seek vengeance and retaliation against someone else, and they could do so legally. The civil government of Rome was frequently used by one Jew to get back at another. Of course, Roman officials were happy to oblige one Jew by inflicting punishment upon another.
What Jesus established in this passage was proper motivation. If we’re wronged, we shouldn’t seek vengeance. This passage doesn’t mean we are supposed to stand in complacency while someone attacks our family or country. Rather, it admonishes us that love covers a multitude of sins. We don’t have to get back money we loan, we don’t have to retaliate when someone wrongs us, and we shouldn’t expect someone to walk a mile with us just because we’ve walked two with him.
The principle Christ establishes against retaliation is summed up in the Greatest Commandment: love the Lord with all our heart soul, strength, and mind, and love our neighbor as ourself. When we love God, we’ll be more concerned about doing what He wants, rather than doing what we want. And, when we love our neighbor as ourself, we will be more concerned about helping them than retaliating.
- What does it mean to “resist not evil”? Proverbs 24:9; Leviticus 19:18; Romans 12:17; Matthew 5:38-42.
- What attitudes are present in those who won’t turn the other cheek?
• Anger—Luke 4:24-29.
• Vindictiveness/Revenge—Acts 23:12; 1 Kings 19:2.
• Bitterness—Esther 3:6.
• Conviction—Acts 5:33.
- In what ways can we actually prepare ourselves for retaliation?
Note: We prepare ourselves for retaliation by thinking and saying things such as, “If he does that, then I’m going to be really mad and give him a piece of my mind.” Examine the principles in Philippians 4:6-9 and Ephesians 4:30-32.
- To what extent are we called to turn the other cheek? At the expense of our family’s physical protection? their reputation? Matthew 5:11-12; Luke 17:3-4; 1 Samuel 17:34-37. Does turning the other cheek include mental, spiritual, and emotional smiting, as well as physical?
- What is the Christian’s responsibility when they lose in a court of law? If we are taken to court and lose, what is our obligation to our accuser? Proverbs 25:8; 1 Corinthians 1:6-8.
- Does Matthew 5:41 indicate anything about the extent we are called to serve others? 1 Corinthians 10:33; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Acts 4:34-35.
- To what extent should we give to those in need? Can we give to someone’s detriment? If so, how? Luke 3:11; Ecclesiastes 3:11; 2 Corinthians 9:6; Deuteronomy 16:17; 2 Corinthians 8:12.
- What guidelines does scripture give us regarding borrowing? Deuteronomy 15:6-11; Luke 6:35; Proverbs 28:8; Exodus 22:25-27.
It seems all of us have someone who antagonizes or “curses” us. This week, commit to turning the other cheek when you’re presented with an opportunity to retaliate. Instead, spend a few minutes in prayer for the other person, asking God to show you how you can share the love of Christ with them. If they’re not a Christian, begin praying for their salvation.