Lenten Devotional 3-13-23

Sermon on the Mount

March 13, 2023

Matthew 5: 38-42

38 ‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” 39But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

On February 11, 2011, the Pittsburgh Penguins played what was supposed to be a hockey game against the New York Islanders. The Islanders were angry at the Penguins because two Islanders were hurt in the previous meeting of the two teams. It was anticipated that the game would be “chippy”. A rough game. Hard checks. Lots of trash talk. More penalties than usual. “Chippy” turned out to be 65 penalties including 15 fighting majors and 21 game misconducts, resulting in a total of 346 penalty minutes. An NHL record. An embarrassment for both teams and the NHL itself. No one on the ice seemed to care about who won the game. Both teams just wanted to hurt each other. Such is often the way of human beings. Make ‘em pay, right? Revenges is sweet, right? An eye for an eye, right? Isn’t that the standard in the Old Testament? Well, sort of.  But here Jesus says—stop it!

What Jesus is saying is actually consistent with the Torah law. Sure, when someone hurt another, the penalty was sometimes “an eye for an eye”. But that was not considered revenge. It was considered control. Such penalties were meted out to end the dispute. To stop any potential escalation. Kind of like our civil justice system today. Jesus bumps up the requirement to say that if someone offends you or hurts you, your response is to be one of forgiveness and the avoidance of escalation. Back off. Keep the peace. Jesus is not talking about passivism. We are not called to be doormats. We are permitted to defend ourselves so that we are not harmed by the actions of others. We are allowed to block the punch. But we are also to act in a way protects but does not escalate. Think about how that might apply to the other examples Jesus poses.