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Don’t get even; give freely

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” Matthew 5:38–42

We all have been wronged. So we have to ask the question: How do we respond?

How do you respond at your job when someone seems to be out to get you? How do you respond when someone you thought was a friend is saying hurtful things about you? Do you change jobs? Do you move? Do you get even?

In Matthew 5:38–42, Jesus walks us through a response.

The first thing we come across is this phrase, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. Jesus is referencing an Old Testament law found in three places: Exodus 21, Leviticus 24, and Deuteronomy 19. It was part of the law in regard to punishment for a crime and was civil in nature, administered by judges and priests. Specifically, it was to ensure that people weren’t punished excessively.

Jesus aims, not to refute this law, but to put it in it’s proper context and address how we distort it relationally. He gives multiple examples of how we should resist the desire to get even, and instead give freely.

  1. To those who hurt you—Jesus says to give the other cheek (v. 39).
  2. To those who take from you—Jesus says to give additional items (v. 40).
  3. To those who take advantage of your time—Jesus says to give them more time (v. 41).

Now, we have to take all of this in context. Jesus is not saying you should be a doormat. We see Jesus standing up for injustice in the temple with the moneychangers. In the book of Acts we see Paul confronting Peter over his hypocrisy. There are times when you’ll need to stand up and fight injustice, but here’s the key: it’s not for selfish gain. Jesus is getting to the heart. He is calling us to give freely because he knows our deeply rooted desire to get even.

Jesus not only called us to this, he modeled it.

We all have wronged Jesus with our sin. And instead of getting even, he gave—he gave his life freely on a cross. If you haven’t given your life to Jesus, it’s impossible to give freely to others, especially those who have wronged you. If you have given your life to Jesus, you are empowered to give as he did.

Now, what does this functionally look like? Consider these steps.

When wronged . . .

1. Talk to Jesus before you talk to others

Don’t get swallowed up in gossip or slander. Talk to Jesus about your hurt, your desire to get even. Own any part you may have in confession and repentance. Shift your focus from the one who has wronged you to the one who gave himself for you.

2. Give freely because Jesus has given to you

Practically, take steps toward reconciliation. Give grace. Give forgiveness. Give love. And when you’ve given all that you can, step back. It doesn’t mean you wash your hands of it, but it means you fix your eyes on Jesus and wait for when he might have you reengage.

3. Entrust your case to Jesus

Some of you think if you don’t make your case, no one will. 1 John 2:1 describes Jesus as your advocate. He is making your case. If you have placed your faith in him, you have been justified before the God of the universe. Who else do you need to make your case to? Entrust it to him.

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