“Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.” Matthew 5:38-42
Of all the evils that surround a human being, none is more destructive than hate and the desire to retaliate a wrong doing. That poisonous seed has destroyed the lives of countless men and women.
If we habitually retaliate and hate, we are exactly the same as those who instinctively and consistently retaliate when wrong is done to them. We are exactly the same as those who instinctively and consistently love those who love them and hate those who hate them. We are synonymous with the world around us and its dominant values.
Our scripture today calls us to a higher standard – one in which the desire to seek revenge is ruled out totally.
Jesus approached this with a surprising revelation of God’s intention for how we should treat others, especially those who mistreat us. When Jesus spoke about God’s law, he did something no one had done before. He gave a new standard based not just on the requirements of justice – giving each their due – but based on the law of love and mercy.
How can we possibly love those who cause us harm or ill-will? With God all things are possible. He gives power and grace to those who believe and accept the gift of the Holy Spirit. His love conquers all, even our hurts, fears, prejudices and griefs. Only the cross of Jesus Christ can free us from the tyranny of malice, hatred, revenge, and resentment and gives us the courage to return evil with good.
Think about His crucifixion for a moment. If there’s anyone in all the world who has the right to decry vengeance, in the midst of the wicked affliction of his accusers, it’s Jesus. He has taught us and shown us who God really is. His love embraces saint and sinner alike. God seeks our highest good and teaches us to seek the greatest good of others, even those who hate and abuse us. Our love for others, even those who are ungrateful and selfish towards us, must be marked by the same kindness and mercy which God has shown to us. It is easier to show kindness and mercy when we can expect to benefit from doing so. How much harder when we can expect nothing in return. Our prayer for those who do us ill both breaks the power of revenge and releases the power of love to do good in the face of evil.
Prayer of The Day
“Jesus, reign as Lord over my heart and all my actions. Give me your grace so that I can live by the standards of your kingdom.”
Think about this. Jesus doesn’t expect a woman in an abusive relationship to passively endure her husband’s beatings. But neither does he want her to beat up her husband in return. Rather, Jesus offers each of us grace so that we can deal with the challenges we face—whether great or small—and the daily demands of life with a spirit of charity and a heart of generosity. It’s when we go out of our way to run an errand for an irritating neighbor, forgive an injury without getting back at the offender, give generously to those in need, refuse to snipe back at the co-worker who is provoking us—that’s when we reflect the glory of Jesus and the light of his kingdom to everyone around us.
God continues to call out to us to love continually. This does not mean to love when things are going well or when someone loves you. It means to love ALWAYS. How do we do this? As it says in Matthew 25:40 “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mind, you did for me.” When you get into an argument with someone, or someone has hurt you, imagine Jesus is standing before you. You would not hit Jesus, or speak foul words towards Jesus, but that is what we do when our actions and words stem from evil and not love. Use the image of Jesus to draw ourselves into prayer and a state of love and peace.