You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. [Matthew 5:38-39 NLT]
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 an evil person" seem to fly in the face of places in the scripture that instruct us to resist the Devil (i.e. the evil one).
I think that the verse makes sense when it is understood that Jesus is speaking in prophetic hyperbole in the same way that he previously spoke of gouging out your eye or cutting off your hand to keep them from sinning. He speaks in this fashion to make an important point.
I think that the point he makes in this passage is the contrast between wanting revenge and 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 the law.
Lord, help me to love justice that is merciful. Help me to love my enemies.
... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.