Saturday, February 4, 2012

An Eye for an Eye

The Bible is an amazing book. It has endured persecution and attacks throughout its existence. One of the attacks it continues to endure is bad interpretation. Today I read the speech of one politician who quoted the scripture completely out of context. His interpretation is a misuse of the scriptures to support his own agenda. That is something many people have done at one time or another.

Jesus witnessed the abuse of reckless interpretation of scripture. The general attitude of religious leaders in Jesus’ time was “An eye for an eye.” Whenever someone hurt them, they believed they had the right to make that person pay.  It was the law, and it was measure for measure. Jesus countered the erroneous view of scripture with a correct interpretation.

Matthew 5:39 “But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

In Jesus’ day a blow on the right cheek was more than an injury. It was that and more. It was a huge insult. Most people would fight back. After all, it was a natural response to being wronged. Some of them would justify it by saying, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Jesus said this is not at all what the law means. You have it completely backwards. The law was about making things right when we hurt someone else; it was never supposed to be about getting justice when someone hurts us.

Think about it, when was the last time you ever heard anyone quoting the law “An eye for an eye” when they were in the wrong? No, we quote it when we have been wronged. As Jesus often did, he hit the nail on the head with this explanation. He was saying to us, “When you wrong someone, make it right—whatever it takes. However, when someone wrongs you, show mercy and turn the other cheek; do not insist on justice.[i]

You say that is impossible. I agree that, humanly speaking, it is impossible, but I think Jesus showed us how to live this way. When the soldiers mocked and brutally handled him, he never demanded justice.

Isaiah 50:6 “I offered my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face
from mocking and spitting.”

When he hung on the cross, he never demanded of his father “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth;” instead, he prayed that his father would show his executioners mercy.

Luke 23:34 “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’  And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”

Only with God’s help and a complete surrender to God’s will can we live as Jesus lived. Let’s require of ourselves “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” when we wrong someone, but when we are wronged, let’s show them mercy.

[i] Philip Graham Ryken, Exodus, Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL 2005, PP. 718-719.

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