An Eye For An Eye
AN EYE FOR AN EYE
Read Luke 9: 51-54; Matt. 5:38-42
Have you ever felt this way? I think that most of us have. At some point in time, when someone has insulted us, humiliated us, or hurt us, we sometimes want to strike back.
- Maybe not to the extent of destroying someone like these disciples had in mind…but still
- It is kind of like the story of the little old lady who was trying to find a parking space at a big city mall…because of her age she was wanting a space up close…and after hunting through the parking lot she finally spied a space. And just as she was about to pull in a car driven by a young teenage girl cut in front of her and took the spot. And as the younger girl got out of her car she said, “See what you can do when you are young a fast.” At that the older lady rammed the younger girl’s car with her Cadillac and said, “See what you can do when you are old and rich!”
I think everyone of us at some time has had an urge to “get even.”
- Maybe while we are driving…maybe because of what someone says to us?
- Maybe because of the way we are treated…maybe when we have been cheated.
Here in Luke 9, Jesus disciples want to “get even.”
- They wanted revenge! They wanted to retaliate.
- Here Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and the disciples aren’t too pleased that he has chosen to go through Samaria.
- Samaritans weren’t very highly thought of.
- Most Jews detested them and went out of their way to avoid having anything to do with them.
- So, the disciples weren’t too fond of going through Samaria in the first place.
And then when Jesus asked these people for help…the disciples didn’t care for that either.
- It was humiliating to them for Jesus to ask for help…especially from these people.
And then when these Samaritans refused to receive Jesus, the disciples were furious.
- They ask Jesus, “Do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”
The disciples wanted revenge.
- But look what Jesus says in vs. 55: “But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”
- Jesus doesn’t want us to retaliate.
- He doesn’t want us “getting even.”
- That is not what He came for; it’s not what He wanted His disciples to do, and it’s not what He wants us to do.
- In fact, if you look at this verse very closely you’ll see that Jesus doesn’t even want us to have a “spirit of retaliation.”
- Jesus doesn’t want us to retaliate.
But where did the disciples get this kind of thinking? Where do some today get this kind of an idea?
Turn with me if you would to Matt. 5: 38. Jesus speaks here and He says:
“You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.”
- Do you see that, “You have heard that it was said…”?
- This is what many of the Jewish Rabbis were teaching.
- They were taking these words from Exodus 21:24, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, and using them to justify retaliation…or personal revenge.
- If anyone wronged them they would just turn to this passage and use it as justification for “getting even.”
- “Why, if someone does injury to you, you have the right to do injury back.”
- They may have even felt like it was their duty to get even.
- No wonder the disciples felt the way they did in Luke 9.
- It is very possible that they were taught to be that way.
But these Rabbis were doing what a lot of people do…they were misusing the scriptures.
- They were making it say something it didn’t say.
- The Rabbis were twisting it…using it out of context in order to justify their own vengeful actions.
Exodus 21 isn’t talking about revenge and retaliation.
- It has nothing to do with revenge and retaliation.
Exodus 21:24, if you go to that passage and look is dealing with “case laws.”
- Case laws that were to be exacted or enforced by the courts or ruling council.
- These laws were never intended for someone to exact personal revenge.
The emphasis of this “case law” found in Exodus 21:24 had to do with making restitution for damages.
- And it worked on the principle of giving an exact equivalent for the damages you suffered…no more…and no less.
- If you took an eye…you gave an eye…an exact equivalent in restitution.
- If you took a tooth you gave a tooth.
- If you killed a calf…you gave a calf.
- It’s the principle of exact equivalent.
It was a law that was designed to keep someone from being unfairly under compensated or over compensated.
- It protected the victim by giving just restitution.
- But it also protected the wrongdoer because it limited the compensation that a victim would receive.
For example, in 1994 Stella Liebeck of Albuquerque, NM bought a 49 cent cup of coffee at McDonald’s. After she bought the cup of coffee she put it between her knees in order to add cream to it. In the process of removing the lid she spilt the entire cup of coffee and it ran down into the seat and she suffered 3rd degree burns. She spent 8 days in the hospital and incurred about $12000 worth of medical expenses. She filed suit against McDonald’s for $20,000 to cover the cost of her medical expenses. When the case went to court the jury awarded Stella $165,000 dollars and $2.7 million dollars for punitive damages. And amount that most people felt like was a ridiculous amount for the injury sustained.
That was the purpose of the law in Exodus 21:24…it was to protect the victim by giving just restitution and at the same time it protected the wrongdoer because it limited the compensation the victim would receive.
- It worked on the principle of giving an exact equivalent for the damage you received…no less and no more.
The law found in Exodus 21:24 and quoted in Matthew 5:38 had nothing to do with retaliation.
- In fact, it was given to prevent retaliation.
- It kept people from taking the law into their own hands by providing a just restitution.
- And it eliminated personal revenge because it was a law that the courts or judicial councils were to exact.
- The Rabbis were misusing this passage!
Look at it again, Matthew 5:38: Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.”
Look what he says next: “But I say to you…”
- “They say it is ok…that revenge is justified…that’s what they tell you”…but…Jesus says, “Not I don’t tell you that.”
Look what he says: “But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to Him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.”
Do you know what Jesus is saying here?
- At first it looks like he is saying, “Well, just let people abuse you.”
- “Just be uncompromisingly passive and let any tyrant or thug who comes along take advantage of you.”
- “Don’t do anything to prevent the spread of evil.”
- Some people take this that way.
- One man took this passage this way to the extent that he “let the lice nibble at him and refused to kill any of them maintaining that he had to suffer and could not resist evil.”
That is not what Jesus is saying.
- Jesus wasn’t even that way…He wasn’t a weakling…He was strong.
- And He Himself resisted evil and stood up against those who were wicked.
- Several times He stood up against the Pharisees and Scribes and opposed them.
- In Eph. 6:10 we are told to “take up the full armor of God, that we might be able to resist the evil day.”
- In 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul told Timothy that he was to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort with great patience.”
- This passage isn’t telling us to be completely passive and letting evil go unchecked.
This passage is dealing with revenge…retaliation…getting even…what you do when someone who is evil wrongs you.
- And Christ is telling us here, that as Christians, as Kingdom people, we are to so completely forgo revenge, so completely refrain from retaliation…that we even allow the evil person to double the injury.
- They slap you on the cheek, you resist retaliation to the point of “turning the other cheek.”
- They take your shirt you resist retaliation to the point of “giving your coat also.”
- They force you to go with them one mile, you resist retaliation to the point of “going with them the second.”
- They come and ask you for something your resist retaliation to the point of “giving more if you have to.”
Jesus is talking about refusing, refraining, forgoing completely exacting revenge and getting even.
- It doesn’t matter what the situation might be…it doesn’t matter how mistreated we are…or how unfair it might seem…Don’t retaliate!
Paul says it this way in Romans 12: 17: “Never…never pay back evil for evil to anyone.”
Jesus doesn’t want us to retaliate…He wants us to go the “extra mile” to keep from retaliating.
- This isn’t easy…it isn’t easy to turn the other cheek.
- Someone slaps us we want to slap them back.
- How do you do this?
I think Jesus tells us how to do this in vs. 44.
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Love! Love your enemies!
- Back up there in verse 39 Jesus gives us four scenarios…four cameos…all situations where a person would be tempted to strike back.
- Situations that the normal man wouldn’t tolerate.
- The only thing that can give a person the power to refrain in those situations is love.
- A sacrificial, selfless love.
- The same kind of love that Jesus manifested as He was nailed to the cross.
Remember the song we sing, “He could have called 10,000 angels”?
- Jesus could have exacted revenge right then and there…but He didn’t?
- Why? Love. A love that denies self and seeks the highest good of the other person and all of society as well.
- It is a love that never returns evil for evil.
The second way you keep from retaliating is changing the way you see things…look at vs. 44-45 again.
“But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”
- Which is more important?
- In vs. 39 Jesus speaks of getting “slapped on the cheek.”
- In vs. 40 He mentions your coat.
- In vs. 41 He mentions walking an extra mile.
- In vs. 42 He speaks of “giving to another that which is yours.”
- In comparison to verse 45 and being “the son of your Father who is in heaven”, which is most important?
That is how you overcome the urge to retaliate…seeing things through Spiritual eyes.
- Realizing what is important.
- All those things that Jesus spoke of in verse 39-42, every one of them is going to pass away, including the cheek.
- But being a son of the Father will last forever.
The third thing that will keep you from retaliating is realizing what it can result in.
- Remember the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4.
- In that story Cain gets even with Abel after God accepts Abel’s sacrifice and rejects Cain’s.
- The price of revenge was high…look at vs. 11-12, 15.
Sometimes we think we want to get even but it’s not worth the price that you will pay.
- The story is told of an incident that happed to Dale Carnegie when he visited Yellowstone Park and watched rangers feed the grizzly bears.
- One night the rangers brought out garbage to attract the bears and sure enough the bears came.
- Huge, ferocious creatures, perhaps the most ferocious animal in the S.
- And as they were feeding the grizzlies Dale Carnegie noticed that the bears wouldn’t allow any other animals to eat with them except for skunks.
- All the other animals were run off except for the skunks.
Dale Carnegie asked one of the rangers, “How could this be? It’s obvious that the grizzlies don’t like it. Why those skunks seem to be running around so arrogant and obnoxious stealing food right in front of the bears. Why don’t the bears get even with the skunks and run them off too?”
- The ranger replied, “The cost is just too high.”
God tells us in Romans 12 that “Vengeance is His.”
- We need to let Him do it.
- If we do it the price might be too high.
I think that we all at sometime have an urge to “get even” with someone.
- But that is not what we are here for.
- We are here to serve Christ and to save as many as possible…not to destroy.
- Christ wants us to forgo exacting revenge to the point of turning the other cheek…giving your coat…going the second mile…and giving after you have already given.
It’s not easy but it can be done.
- It takes love…love for God…love for Christ…love for people…and love for your enemies.
- It requires looking at things through spiritual eyes realizing that some things are not that important.
- And it can be done by realizing that the cost of retaliation may be too high.
Christ doesn’t want us to retaliate…but there is something else that Christ doesn’t want us to do either…that’s be lost.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2022