“Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere?
Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it...And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life.
No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously."
Matthew 5:38-42. Edited, The Message
This nudge and not so subtle suggestion from Jesus goes against most everything we see being done in our world today!
Our desire is that our justice system indeed DOES employ "an eye for an eye". In fact we also repeat that refrain when we feel we have experience injustice or have been wronged.
Our military response in certain situations is most often threats and air strikes. Promoting slogans like "Shock and awe!" and "Fire and Fury!" as if it isn't a more serious situation with innocent lives hanging in the balance rather than a simple commercial campaign!
Our response to a friend who has hurt us is with a nasty text, a casually shared tidbit of gossip or simply the time honored bitter silence.
We ignore forgiveness and grace for retaliation and twisted justice!
And yet Jesus questions that logic.
"An eye for an eye...is that going to get us anywhere?"
Look back on human history or your own personal history and ask yourself "has it?"
So often our enemies bring out the worst in us, not the best. We react with military force and vengeance and consequently our true selves our embarrassingly exposed!
Wars continue to rage, terrorist groups continue to grow, families are torn apart from the inside out and social, political topics and agendas continue to divide the country. This all occurring because we don't respond rationally, peacefully or gracefully to one another.
We feed the ugliness! The cycle continues as it has from the beginning, with no one learning from the mistakes of their parents or grandparents.
We believe and feel entitled to the belief that every negative action towards us or every bad word spoken about us must have a countering gut-punching response.
Our retribution, vengeance, anger and hatred is poison!
Our lack of forgiveness, self-control and peace is embarrassing!
Yet Gods math is different than ours. Gods justice defies our conventional methods.
God urges that hate, violence and anger be combated and returned with peace. "Heap burning coals of guilt on your enemies heads with your acts of kindness to them" as the scriptures say.
What we know for sure is that anger begets more anger, violence begets more violence and hate begets more hate.
But what if that wasn't the case? What if we had the self-control and wisdom to instead return anger with peace, hate with love and violence with forgiveness?
Would it impact our world? Would it make a difference?
Jesus seemed to think so and look how impactful He was in employing those methods! He won over hearts and minds with his loving servant attitude.
However, what we selfishly want is the Kingdom now! We want to live comfortably and free and safe. We essentially want to make ourselves "Great Again!", but Jesus never promised that!
On the contrary, what Jesus promised those that would follow His example was a life of hardship, persecution and possible death!
Jesus Himself was ultimately willing to die living out that example and so many courageous leaders throughout time since have also faced death because they chose to stand for peace instead of violence.
Peace is disruptive and dangerous, controversial and contrary, unorthodox and under-utilized.
Oddly the ones who opposed Jesus the most on his unconventional acts of mercy, kindness and peace was the religious leaders.
When Peter attempted to protect Jesus at his arrest by drawing a sword, Jesus protested saying "those who live by the sword die by it!"
Better to die promoting peace than by promoting death!