Daily D – Matthew 5:38-39
“You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
MATTHEW 5:38-39 (CSB)
Bob Newhart is one of the funniest men who has ever lived. Schedule six minutes or so and watch this routine as he plays the role of a counselor who dispenses a two-word solution to every problem. ([https://bit.ly/2YuOFOD])
When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and the accompanying applications to different scenarios, one of the protective limitations was the idea Jesus references here to an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. In assessing punishment for an offense, the punishment could not exceed the original offense. This protected people from turning molehill offenses into mountains of retribution.
Jesus takes things a step further. He says, “don’t resist an evildoer.” In other words, “No hit-backs.” Stop the cycle of retribution. Do not get even. Practice the discipline of not having the last word.
This does not mean that we cannot practice self-defense. It does mean that we should be hard to offend. Retaliation is almost always the wrong first step.
Carey Nieuwhof hosts a highly-regarded leadership podcast. I never miss it. Episode 406 featured Steve Cuss. Cuss talked about how anxiety spreads in a group and how to diffuse your personal anxiety. This podcast episode lasts one hour and forty-two minutes. It is one of the richest and most rewarding listens you will find. It may have something to do with Cuss’s accent.
Cuss talks about bearing a non-anxious presence in moments of conflict. What he says reminds me of what Jesus says here. Be fully present and be hard to offend. Seek first to understand. Live generously with forgiveness and reconciliation always close at hand. Resolve conflicts at the lowest possible level to prevent unnecessary escalation.
The word translated resist in verse 39 can also mean retaliate. Jesus says, “Don’t retaliate.” The Apostle Paul would later ask a powerful question: “Why not rather be wronged?” (1 Corinthians 6:7)
You and I experience much more peace and much less anxiety when we are hard to offend and when we refuse to retaliate. Practicing this lifestyle for a while leads us to ask another question: “Why create unnecessary anxiety?”
I will be hard to offend.
Our Father, I will be tested today in the area of personal offense. Give me the grace I need to avoid escalating conflict. Empower me to go the distance necessary to defuse anger and to spread peace. Amen.
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Jeremiah 35:12-14 “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go and tell the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘Will you not learn a lesson and obey my words?’ declares the Lord. ‘Jehonadab son of Rekab ordered his descendants not to drink wine and this command has been kept. To this day they do not drink wine, because they obey their forefather’s command. But I have spoken to you again and again, yet you have not obeyed me.”
Psalm 78:70-72 He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.
Jeremiah 23:20-22 The anger of the Lord will not turn back until he fully accomplishes the purposes of his heart. In days to come you will understand it clearly. I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds.