PAY BACK GOOD FOR EVIL
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person…” Matthew 5:38, 39a.
Now that’s very different from the way people behave, isn’t it! We believe we have the right to pay someone back for hurting us, whether it be with words or deeds.
But Jesus taught something different. He not only taught His disciples not to take revenge, but He also taught us how to make people who hurt us treat us with dignity. Let me explain.
To understand what Jesus meant by “turning the other cheek” and “going the second mile”, we have to understand the culture of His day. In Israel then and even in Muslim culture today, the left hand was regarded as “unclean” because it was used for toilet purposes. If you struck someone on the right cheek, you had to use your left hand to do it. That was considered an insult because you were degrading the person by using your “unclean” hand to strike him.
Jesus said, “Turn the other cheek.” That meant not only that you were not resisting the one who struck you but you were also inviting him to strike you with his right hand. That meant that you were forcing him to treat you as an equal. Jesus taught His disciples that we must not retaliate when someone harms us. We must also expect people to treat us with dignity because no one is better than anyone else.
“Going the second mile” also means two things. Roman soldiers on duty in Israel carried heavy packs when they moved from place to place. A soldier was permitted to force a Jew to carry his pack for one mile but no further. If you continued on after one mile instead of returning his pack to him, you showed him that you were willing to help him without being forced. You also forced him to run after you and take his pack back because he was not permitted to make you carry his pack further than one mile. To do that was considered cruelty and the penalty was a day’s pay.
In this little lesson, Jesus taught us two things.
Firstly, He taught us that we must not pay back evil for evil. That’s not the way to show God’s love to people. The way of love is the way of forgiveness. Cancel the debt because Jesus has already paid for it.
“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:19-21.
Secondly, He taught us that we must treat everyone with dignity and respect because we have all been created in the image of God. We must also expect other people to treat us with dignity as well. We do not need to be anyone’s “doormat”.
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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