Today’s devotion builds on the thoughts from Sunday’s Sermon – Week 4 of “Fan or Follower – Deal with Division” (LISTEN HERE).
I wish Jesus had said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth’…I tell you, ‘I agree!’”
I wish Jesus had said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy’…I tell you, ‘I agree!’”
In the judicial world of Israel, and perhaps any society, “you do the crime, you do the time.” Some judicial punishments are more separation from society and some are more separation from some part of your physical body. Each is a deterrent for the perpetrator to do something more or to harm someone else.
Judicial codes and systems are necessary and should a Christian choose to use the judicial system to bring justice to a wrong that was incurred, there is nothing wrong with it.
However, the challenge is this: WE want to play judge and jury AND executioner!
We want the “right” to settle the score and get even with people who wrong us. We don’t want to wait for the judicial system. We don’t want to wait for someone else to act. WE want to make sure the person who hurt us is hurt the same or worse as we were, and are willing or wishing to carry it out ourselves.
Revenge is rage in our heart that desires retribution for wrong that was done to us. Revenge is most often triggered when we perceive, and often rightly so, that what happened was not deserved. Injustice desires justice. Revenge seeks swift ‘justice’!
That’s why we wish Jesus would give permission to hate our enemies and extract revenge however we see fit. We want to feel justified to make the person who hurt us, hurt worse.
But Jesus didn’t say the above. Instead he said this:
Matthew 5:39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.
Tough, for sure.
But a follower of Christ follows the example of Christ.
The Apostle Peter was more than ready to extract revenge. As Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was quick to take out his sword and swing at the nearest person. The servant of the high priest ended up with his ear cut off. Jesus healed it and reprimanded Peter for “living by the sword.”
Years later as Peter reflected on these events and was inspired to write his letters, he shared this observation about Jesus:
1 Peter 2:23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
Of anyone who walked the planet, Jesus had the right to carry our revenge and retribution, yet he chose to not engage and entrust himself to the one, his Father, who would judge justly.
Jesus did not seek revenge. He instead loved and forgave. He hung on the cross for the very ones that were seeking to hurt him. He forgave the ones who unjustly nailed him to the cross. He did this not just as an example, but to bring forgiveness to us.
He went to the cross to receive the revenge for sin that we deserved from our holy, righteous God in heaven. God hurt his Son so he would not have to hurt us for our sin.
And…so we could do the same to those that hurt us.
So, to the ones that hurt you, love them as God has loved you.
Apply: What happens when ruminations of revenge are replaced with prayer and love toward the one that hurt you?
Prayer: Lord Jesus thank you for taking the vengeance of the Father for my sin, so that I would not have to. Thank you for showing your love to me so I might show the same to those who hurt me. AMEN.