Matthew 5:38-42 Reflection: Retaliation and Revenge

A reading from the gospel of Matthew 5:38-42

Jesus said to his disciples:
38 “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
39 But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.
40 If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.
41 Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.
42 Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”

Reflection: Higher standard of behavior for believers

How does a follower of Jesus behave in a certain situation? To answer this question, we need to understand the totality of His teachings. Thus, we don’t pick a gospel verse or even verses and say, this is it.

Take the gospel passage above. It is part of the whole Sermon on the Mount which is prefaced by the Beatitudes – that is the attitudes of a real follower.

When He sent His apostles for a mission, He told them to be wise as a serpent. (Matthew 10:16) When He was slapped by an official during His trial, He questioned why He was struck in the face. (John 18:22) A lot has already been said about Christian charity versus pacifism but it is central to ask how Jesus would have behaved in a certain situation if He were in our shoes. After all, to be called Christian means to be Christ-like.

We should always remember that resistance is moral, not physical or violent. To be calm and generous at all times is the Christian badge but to be remiss in our duty to correct others is a sin. How much more evil if we become instruments for others to commit sin? It is therefore important to use common sense as we deal with different people in different situations.

Jesus is simply challenging us to exercise our freedom to act in a different way – the way of love, compassion, and forgiveness. In the Christian life, there is no room for retaliation and revenge. In every situation, we should never forget that we are sons and daughters of a loving God and we should always treat others the way we want them to treat us. (Golden Rule).

Jesus demands of His followers a higher standard of behavior because it is in them that the seed of the Good News is planted.

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Gospel Reading and Reflection
Gospel Reading and Reflection

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