You have heard it said, Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also (Matthew 5:38-39).
The concept of Eye for an Eye has been misappropriated. The way I understand it, the idea was one of limiting punishment, not intensifying it. The rule fit the punishment to the crime, and kept the offended party from going on a revenge rampage. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that people were actually taking eyes and teeth and limbs; God was simply establishing an upper limit on retribution.
Somewhere along the line, the idea devolved into, “You hurt me–I hurt you!”
With much growling and grunting and flaring of nostrils and gnashing of teeth.
As you may have noticed, that’s not what Jesus is about.
The world teaches us from an early age to stand up for our rights, and not to let anyone walk all over us. And here is Jesus, telling us the opposite.
What do we do with this?
I want to be really careful about speaking for Jesus, but I think there are a couple of points to keep in mind here. First, this is a general principle, not meant to cover every encounter. I don’t think Jesus is counseling the battered wife or the abused child to keep absorbing punishment. Nor do I think Jesus wants us to stand by passively while another is hurt or abused. The need to stand up to evil is deep within us, and I think that desire is from God.
The principle here is that we do not belong to ourselves. When we get consumed with our rights and our hurts and what we deserve we forget that we have been bought with a price. We are not our own. Jesus, as he spoke these words, was preparing to face greater personal pain and loss and humiliation than you and I can imagine. But he wasn’t going to call for vengeance. He was going to trust the Father–who loved him and cared for him and was totally capable of protecting him–to use this nightmare for his own glory. Which was what Jesus lived for.
It’s not about you, Beloved.
It’s not even about me.
It’s about Him.