This Can't Be Right!1
Brian and Kathy Emmet
“Don’t resist an evil person…” (Matthew 5:38-42).
This isn’t only upside-down, it’s just plain wrong! If we don’t resist evil people, they’ll just keep doing evil and getting away with it! And living like this would turn us into wimps and doormats!
I think we can see Jesus’ wisdom in the first half of this week’s passage. Yes, the source of murder is anger, the taproot of adultery is lust, we should become the kind of people whose words are reliable and don’t need to be supercharged by “swearing on a stack of Bibles.” To “keep the rules” externally while leaving our heart motivations hidden away and unaddressed turns us into hypocrites and worse.
But now? “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth,’ but I tell you, Do not resist an evil person …” That can’t be right, can it?
Our wrong-side world understands retaliation. “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth” was actually a way to limit and restrain the native human impulse to retaliate. The Law sets limits: if you knock out my tooth, I can’t chop off your head!
Retaliation is about using violence to “get my rights.” Someone publicly insults me by slapping me on the cheek? I know just how to deal with that! Someone wants to sue me; I’ll “lawyer up” and make sure I’m not taken advantage of! Someone tries to put a burden on me I didn’t request or volunteer for—I’ll show them!
In listening to Jesus here – and remember, we are listening to our King -- we should avoid starting with the big, abstract issues and questions: “What, we shouldn’t have gone to war against the Nazis? If a murderous burglar breaks into my home, I can’t defend myself and family?” Don’t start with the big, questions, because, mercifully, we don’t face those every day; start with your everyday retaliation strategies.
Things like your unique forms of road rage. Or when you find yourself saying, “I’ll teach her a lesson!” Maybe you use gossip to “cut someone down to size.” Anyone ever told you that you have some passive-aggressive tendencies?
Here’s’ the key to understanding and living this passage: Jesus is describing how God already treats us. Has God resisted our every evil impulse and act? Has our behavior ever given insult to the Lord? Has your King given you the shirt off his back, even though you never deserved it? Has Jesus ever walked a second mile, with you … and for you?
Which one of your everyday retaliation strategies is God putting his finger on?