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Jesus Teaches About Revenge

How do we respond to people who treat us meanly or unfairly? Jesus tells us how in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:38-42). Here’s a look at a few of the main points.

Jesus tells us: “Do not resist an evil person.” Bible scholars say that this could mean: “Don’t get even. Don’t work for justice. Don’t resist.” Wow! Why would that be a good strategy? Why shouldn’t we stand up for ourselves and for what’s right and just? The answer lies in our motive and our method. Does revenge, hurting someone back, ever really work? Are such motives pure and loving? Are we loving our neighbors as ourselves if we retaliate? Are we loving God? So what do we do? Jesus gives us four examples of how to respond.

  1. Jesus explains that when we’ve been slapped on the right cheek to “turn the other cheek.” Well, to hit us on the right cheek, the “slapper,” who is facing us and is most likely right handed, would have had to give us a backhanded slap. Otherwise, he would have hit us on the left cheek. And a backhanded slap was considered to be an insult.

    Why do we turn our cheek? Because it shows the slapper that we are not afraid—that we are strong in our faith in God’s power and presence. We’re not going to make a big deal of it. The slapper may expect us either to back away and cower out of fear or to punch back. But when we don’t, we keep our cool, keep our dignity, and stay true to ourselves and to God. And that can calm an otherwise explosive situation.

  2. Next, Jesus tells us that if someone takes our shirt, we should hand over our coat, too. In Bible times, people only had one shirt and one cloak, so to give both to the “shirt-taker” was to let go of all worldly possessions. It’s like he’s saying not to make things more important than people. It symbolizes our willingness to put God above all else. And that’s a big statement to make both to God and to the one who is NOT putting God first.

  3. Then Jesus tells us to “go the extra mile.” In Bible times, Roman soldiers had the right to command subjects to carry their luggage for a mile. Jesus says to carry it for a second mile! We do our duty and then we do more with God. With God, we’re able to be more loving, do more than people expect, and do more to help solve problems with people. We can do what’s being demanded without hurting our faith. No one can ruin our relationship to God.

  4. Lastly, Jesus explains that when someone asks us for something, we should give it to them, and when someone wants to borrow from us, we should be willing to loan to them. Jesus isn’t asking us to be push-overs; he’s urging us to be willing to help others and to be generous. Willingness and generosity are based on wisdom, not on weakness. So the spirit of God will help us understand who needs help, how they need help, and what we can do.

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