Peninsula Community Church
Sermon on the Mount
April 3, 2011
Get Mad or Get Even?
Matthew 5:38-42 “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.
As I was preparing for this message, I was reminded of the sign in front of a church that read “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.” This was a quote from Gandhi who was a proponent of world peace. What is meant here is that if we react to the negative stimulus in our lives without control we will injure others in the process. This is the truth in many ways.
Once again the Pharisees determined that they would take the law into their own hands. If anyone did anything to them they felt justified in revenging the action with equal force. In essence they had misinterpreted God’s purpose behind the proclamation that they were to repay a sum of money equal to the value of the item taken or damaged. The Pharisees exaggerated the purpose of the scripture as dictated by God. They were quick to use the scripture to attack others and to retaliate for what others do.
What was proposed in the original law given by God was the law of equivalency which was an attempt to limit the extent of a punishment and to discourage cruelty. In the courts the judge would measure the penalty against the crime committed. In other words the punishment had to fit the crime. In other words if someone broke your arm you could not break both arms of the other person. However, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” as interpreted by the Pharisees promoted revenge, retaliation, and hatred.
Rather than respond from a position of love and grace the problem that here is that the Pharisees believed that whatever was done to them that they had the right to retaliate with equal power and aggression. So if you cut me off on the road, I could not rest until I cut you off regardless of the reason you might have done that. If you didn’t say hello to me, then I would ignore you. The problem here is that rather than settle issues the issue is not dealt with and often escalates the issues. This pharisaical teaching would mean that if I felt that someone had said or done something to damage my name or reputation, I must damage his name or reputation an equal amount. How do I know when it is equal? Revenge is so diabolical. This pharisaical teaching was just 180 degrees from the spirit and intent of both tables of the law of love. Love means self-sacrifice and self-denial. They taught the exact reverse of the law of love.
While the passage does not promote revenge, retaliation, or hatred the passage does not promote passivity either. Jesus promoted a reaction that is measured and controlled. In fact, the scripture promotes healthy reaction and purposeful assertiveness. This passage is often misinterpreted as that the church needs to be passive and non-assertive in the events of life. This passage is not a call to be a door mat but rather to properly respond to the issues at hand.
Three ways to deal with injury and hurt:
- Aggression – retaliation – fight and manipulation. Respond in such a way that would destroy the other person or set one up for a win/lose situation. The goal is to win at any cost.
- Assertiveness – face the issues.
- Passivity – no action – flight. One would rather run that deal with the issues at hand.
How to be assertive:
The natural response to injury is to be either aggressive or to be passive in our approach but God calls to be assertive. When we are personally injured our world does not suddenly become our injury. In other words we understand who has propagated the injury and that it is only them and not the whole world.
- Stand up for one’s personal rights in a way that honors others and shows forth Christ love.
- Express thoughts, feelings and ideas in direct, honest and appropriate ways without violating other’s rights. This is not about winning but it is about solving problems.
- Christian assertiveness involves respect not deference. Because we respect one another we are willing to deal with the issues at hand.
- Christian assertiveness accepts one’s limitations and one’s worth as a child of God.
One of the issues that keep us from a biblical view of assertiveness is shame. Shame-based people cannot assert themselves because they feel inferior and lower than others. In conflict some fight sinfully but this can be forgiven but for one that fights with shame must be healed before they can fight according to God’s plan and purpose.
The tale of the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s feud. What began as a feud over the ownership of a hog, ended with 12 family members dead and several bounty hunters who wanted to cash in on the history of the family.
Let me close with this passage: Psalm 37 Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land. In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.