Don’t Retaliate When You’re Insulted

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December 23, 2011 by Chris French

The last time someone slapped you did you turn your head and present them with your other cheek? I’m guessing not. In Matthew 5.38-39 Jesus says that we should do that exact thing. Of course He’s not speaking literally. What good would it do to let someone who is angry with you smack you twice? We need to look for the principle behind what Jesus is saying. First let’s deal with this eye for an eye thing. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’. Jesus is quoting from Exodus 21.24. Go back and read it. It’s a pretty interesting read with two guys fighting, a pregnant woman and the consequences of accidentally hurting the unborn baby. This was a literal law. If your carelessness blinded the baby your own eyes would be forfeited. Sound harsh? The law was actually made to stop retaliation which was forbidden under the Old Law (Lev. 19.18). Think about it. Two guys are fighting in the marketplace. You and your pregnant wife are walking by when one of them slams into her forcing her into labor. The baby is born blind because of the trauma. Now you not only want to blind the man you want to kill him too. The eye for an eye law was meant to give a just verdict, but also keep the over-excersized retaliation down. It was basically the Old Testament “Do unto others” law only with more severe consequences. I would be very careful in my dealings with you because however I wronged you was going to be done back to me exactly so I treated you right.

Meanwhile back on the ranch at Matthew 5.39 Jesus says that if someone slaps you your next action shouldn’t be to go to the judge and petition him to allow you to slap the guy. He basically says you should not retaliate when you’re insulted. That’s what the slap was: an insult. Slaps hurt. Make no mistake about it there is some physical pain there, but the main emotion is not pain, but rage at being insulted. Think about the last time someone insulted you. Our initial reaction is to insult them (hurt them) right back. Jesus forbids this. Pretty high standard, right? Impossible? Not quite. Check out Matthew 26.67. “Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, ‘Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?” Jesus is on the cross at this point so the pain is unbelievable, but the intent of the soldier slapping him was not to cause him physical pain, but to insult him. Jesus doesn’t retaliate. We make all kinds of excuses when we go off on people. “I’m having a bad day.” “They shouldn’t have said that.” “That was so inconsiderate.” The soldier shouldn’t have slapped Jesus, it’s an understatement to say that it was inconsiderate and that He was having a bad day. When someone insulted Him on His worst day Jesus didn’t retaliate. Do we?

Come back tomorrow for, “Don’t Retaliate when Your Rights are Taken Away.”

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