38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you" Matthew 5:38-42
After Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount with the beatitudes, he immediately started talking about real-life situations to teach us how to apply them. In the verses above, the subject matter is simple, "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth." One of the Old Testament passages, Exodus 21, begins with the instruction, "These are the laws you are to set before them." Sure enough, down in verse 24 is this law, "eye for eye, and tooth for tooth." There are other exchanges also mentioned in that section of scripture. Some of them include life for life, foot for foot, hand for hand, and others. According to the law, for example, if you were responsible for someone losing a hand, you better get ready to lose a hand, too.
Now Jesus comes along in the Sermon on the Mount, repeating what the law says about eye for eye, but then adds, "I tell you, do not resist an evil person." He then qualifies that statement with three others:
1. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.
2. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.
3. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.
Then the final statement on the matter, "Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."
I will be the first to admit, the things Jesus is expecting from us in these verses are going to be very difficult..............unless we view them in the light of the beatitudes, given earlier in Matthew 5. Read the beatitudes again, followed by these later instructions from Jesus, and see if you can determine a way better than vengeance, to deal with those situations.
Some will say the instructions are not meant literally, but that the attitude with which we deal with those who oppose us, is the primary purpose of Jesus making these statements. While most of us might have difficulty in following the instructions of the Lord, we will usually admit we do need to have better attitudes in situations like these.
We have countless other examples from Jesus himself, when he was rejected, despised, treated unfairly, and ultimately put to death. We have much to learn and even more to gain, when we can learn to be as loving and forgiving as our Savior.