Matthew 5:38-48: About Revenge – Part I
For the next several days we will explore Jesus’ words from his Sermon on the Mount. Today, what does Jesus tell us about the freedom we find when we stay clear of the temptation to seek revenge?
Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth”. Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: “Don’t hit back at all”. If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. (MSG)
Jesus challenges us to live generously; yet what does this mean?
This is impossible, we say to ourselves as we hear his words. And a life lived in this way will never work. Who will protect me and my loved ones if I do not? How will I keep the bullies at bay? And how will I avoid being everyone’s doormat? This is impossible we repeat. And then . . .
God says: I am quite aware that many of you see Jesus’ suggestion as an idealistic, and even ridiculous, plan for living. You see the Law of Freedom as a threat to your autonomy. You see the world viewed from this perspective of love – without defenses and using liberal amounts of revenge – as childish. But I say to you that it is childlike. I do not ask you to go into the world completely open to assault; rather, I ask that you use my enormous power, presence and love as a bulwark and as your rock of safety. I ask you to trust me more than you trust your own resources and your little powers. I also ask that you replace your bluster and bravado with my own call to love those who hate you and wish you harm. When you surrender to my Law of Freedom, you give up all pretense of power – and yet you will have more power than you ever imagined. When you remain in and with me, you need not build the walls you falsely believe will protect you. I ask that you put away your childish ways of dependence of self and replace them the childlike life of generosity and openness. I tell you that this new interaction with the world brings you a new freedom . . . and even a new authority, the authority of my love that surpasses all.
Jesus challenges us to live generously. Do we see ourselves as able to follow this call?