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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Psalm 139:17, 18 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!
2 Corinthians 5:1-5 For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 10:13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.