38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
The natural man wants revenge. That is our way. If someone wrongs us, we want to do something wrong to them. If they offend us, we want to offend them. If they steal from us, we want to take something of theirs. If they hurt us, we want to hurt them. Revenge.
God does not want us to take revenge. His way is love. He does not want us to remain angry, but forgive. No matter what is done to us God wants us to show love. There is nothing someone else can do to us that would make God approve of us taking revenge. Revenge belongs to Him.
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord (Deuteronomy 32:35).
Why are we so quick to ignore this part of Jesus’ teaching? What is it about revenge that is so sweet, and why do we feel we are entitled to it? The answer is simple, and we have mentioned it several times in our study already. It’s pride, pure and simple. Getting even with someone makes our flesh feel better. The old man wants nothing more than to be on a level playing field with everyone else. If they are offended, offense should be thrown back. If they are slapped on the cheek, they should slap back. If they are taken advantage of, they want to find a way to take advantage of the other person. Only looking at what makes me feel better is pride. Doing what is best for the other person is humility. The trouble is most of us do not want to be humbled. The other problem is that God will allow people into our lives that will offend and hurt us over and over again to teach us this lesson. Have you noticed this in your life?
I see and hear Christians all the time wanting to get even or to repay a hurt that was done to them. This ought not to be so. We should do all we can to allow God to even the score with someone else. The commission for us is to love our enemies (Matt 5:44), to count it a blessing when we are persecuted for righteousness sake (Matt 5:11-13), and to count it joy when we fall into temptation or trials (James 1:2). These things come into our lives to help us grow in grace and mercy and to learn humility. Are we allowing God to teach us these lessons, or are we trying to get our own way and feel better about ourselves?
The second lesson in this portion of scripture is to do more than is expected. Our human tendency is to only do as much as we must too get by. My wife works as a hostess in a restaurant most evenings. During the night, there are several waitresses that clock in and out at various times. Each is expected to do certain things at the end of their shift to help prepare for the next day. Most of the waitresses will help get another ones chores done so they don’t have to stay so late. There is one lady who does her work and then leaves without regard for how much more there is to do. She simply says her work is done, so she is leaving. This really gets under my wife’s skin, because my wife is the type that will always help the others until everything is done. She is kept in high regard by her fellow workers because of her wonderful attitude about this. Some nights this keeps her an hour or two past her shift being over, and often she has already clocked out. That’s just who she is! My wife is a Christian – it is what she should do.
In Jesus day, it was a law that if a Roman soldier asked you to go a mile for him, you had to do it. This was not a matter of choice. Often, the soldiers would ask people to carry their armor, or some sort of load for that required mile. Imagine their surprise if someone would say they would go another mile after the required mile was done. Do you suppose it would allow the person carrying the load to share why they were willing to do so? Because, as a Christian, they just wanted to go the extra mile in honor of Christ. What a witness. Have you ever gone out of your way to help someone, or done more than they asked you to do? Did it bless them? Did they ask you why you did so much when you didn’t have to?
The things Jesus mentions here go against the grain of our society. They go against everything our flesh tells us. Lend to people without expecting anything in return? That’s outrageous isn’t it? But that is what Christ says (Luke 6:34). I know there are many times I have loaned out small amounts (under $100) and then simply forgot about it. I didn’t forget on purpose – I’m not even sure that is possible. I just forgot, which is a fault of mine. When my wife would remind me about it, I would simply say that I ‘m not going to worry about it. If they get around to paying me back, great. If they don’t, I’m not going to let it get to me. I choose to just sit back and forget it. This beings me a peace of mind that would not be there if I was always reminding my friend he owed me back.
In fact, all three of these examples Jesus gives add to my peace of mind and also to the peace of the other person involved. When I am offended, or compelled to go with someone, or lending something, I can easily get all worked up and impatient about things if they don’t go my way. But if I make sure that I put the other person first and allow these three principles to reign in my life, I will be in a much better place. These things are also roads to humility in my life, which I believe is one of God’s favorite characteristics in His children. All three put the other person first and put down our own pride in the process. What could be more pleasing to God?