Do not resist the one who is evil.

"You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you."

Undoubtedly this is one of the more difficult passages in the Sermon on the Mount when it is read with a literal perspective. Words like "Do not resist the one who is evil" seem to fly in the face of places in the scripture that instruct to resist the Devil (i.e. the evil one). Yet I think that the verse makes sense when it is understood that Jesus is once again speaking in prophetic hyperbole in the same way that he previously spoke of gouging your eye out to prevent it from lusting. He speaks this way to make an important point.

The point or focus of this passage is the tension between the one wanting revenge and the one wanting reconciliation. Love fuels and motivates the latter while something darker energizes the former. In a sense Jesus is telling us to overcome evil with love. The theology of "an eye for an eye" is so appealing to our fleshly sense of justice. Yet there is no heart of mercy in that theology. Perhaps that is why Jesus issues a correction to it. We would all be blind and toothless if we followed the letter of this law.

Lord, make me merciful. Help me to love my enemies.

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