Reflection on Matthew 5:38-48




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 an evil-doer”


Jesus takes the principles of the Law and extend their application to lengths that seem (and actually are) impossible to fulfil.

An eye for an eye becomes do not resist an evil-doer.

If someone sues you, give them more than is their due.

Love you neighbour becomes love your enemy because to be like the Father we have to love those who hate us.

The people of this world can be kind to people they like. It takes the grace of God to love our enemies.


How do I live my daily life in the context of the radical love of God?

Revenge, even in the limited version allowed in the Jewish Law seems appropriate to most people. The Law of Moses allowed that a person who was injured by another person could take a legally sanctioned retribution in which the perpetrator was injured to the same extent as the victim. So then you have two maimed people, and the injuries of the victim are still there.

Jesus says, “Do not resist an evil-doer.” How does this apply when your house is invaded by people who want to harm you and your family?

Many Americans, and I suppose many people from most cultures, whether christians or not, subscribe to the philosophy of “Do unto others before they do unto you.” In other words a loaded gun beside the bed is your best protection.

How does that tie in with “Do not resist evil doers”?

Jesus tells us not to meet violence with violence, but with a defiant form of non-violence. “Turn the other cheek.”

Most of us do not often face extreme violence such as robbery or assault. Our situation is more likely a daily slap in the face- contemptuous put-downs, mischievous harassment. In those situations, Jesus tells us to show kindness to those who show us hatred, to love those who do us wrong. Rather than retaliation we choose a higher path of peace and love.

When our physical safety is threatened the odds are higher. But the principle is the same- remove the threat without harming the person. I can’t imagine what it is like to be a christian in ISIS controlled territory, or to go through a violent home invasion. In those situations we need the grace of Jesus to follow Him even in great suffering or at the point of death.


Lord Jesus, you sometimes challenge our thinking on what is right and good. The standard “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” is too high for us. Help me to surrender myself to your grace in every situation. Amen.


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