Revenge (or Not)

You would never have heard of the Hatfields and McCoys if either of those families believed Jesus. Lots of folks say they believe in Jesus; they just don’t believe Him, especially when He says things like this:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’** But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:38-39)

It’s understandable for people to doubt that teaching. The urge to get revenge is so deeply seated in us and feels so satisfying, that Jesus’ teaching seems preposterous. I would guess that no other theme has been more predominant in movies than the one in which the good guy finally gets tasty revenge over the bad guy. And yet Jesus says, don’t do it. Instead, make a decision to not resist.

Jesus isn’t talking about cowering in fear. He means for us to turn the tables on our adversary, by responding generously to his hurt or his need. He continued with this:

“And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:40-42)

These teachings go together; the same Spirit that governs and enables the second part, also informs and directs the first. Without that Spirit, they seem ridiculous and are impossible to sustain. With God’s Spirit, they fit together with beauty and grace. The best illustration I know of how powerful and healing such actions can be is in another movie: Les Miserables. If you have seen it, think about the gift of candlesticks to the thief, and all that ensued. In you have not seen it, there’s your homework! Do it today!

When a person recognizes Jesus as God, understands the depth and sincerity of the love He poured out on the cross, and fully trusts Him, God’s Spirit begins to live in his or her soul. As He begins to transform our minds, things like not taking revenge but responding to an evil person with grace and understanding, that made no sense before, now seem not only beautiful, but also possible.

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