“So angry I could ..” The famous passage in the Bible where Jesus tells his followers to “turn the other cheek” illustrates the power of faith and commitment.
Although we’ve all felt anger toward another person, we don’t usually act on it. But what did Jesus have to say about retaliation, and what can we learn from His example?
People often use the Bible phrase “Eye for an eye” when they are angry. This phrase comes from Matthew 5 (below) and has become a general principle in many legal systems. It is often invoked to prevent excessive punishment for a crime. And, it restores equality between the victim and the perpetrator.
This lesson from Matthew’s writings portrays what Jesus says about anger and retaliation.
What Jesus Says about Retaliation – 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 an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.
Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.
Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.” – Matthew 5:38-42 NASB
Question: Should We Retaliate?
Is Jesus saying that Christians should be weak people to be taken advantage of at every turn?
Not at all. He simply states facts about our nature as human beings. For example, Jesus teaches us that we shouldn’t take revenge for wrongs done to us, but instead to show love and compassion for our enemies.
When we are wronged, we become angry. Often our first reaction is to get even. Instead Jesus said we should do good to those who hurt us – and He did! Jesus taught us to love wrongdoers. He even forgives those who crucified Him. This shows us that it is possible to forgive those who have done us wrong and do good for them in return.
As the American author Darrell Calkins once wrote:
“Forgiveness is really about absolution: to set free. But if you look carefully at the dynamic, the one you’re setting free is yourself.”
What Jesus Did
A unique bracelet worn by many younger Christians in the ’90s read;
“WWJD” or “What would Jesus Do?“.
Should we still ask that question? What would Jesus do in these situations?
The Scripture tells us very plainly what Jesus did when wronged .. He forgave!
What Do We Do?
If we are to be followers of Christ, He has set forth specific instructions for us to follow.
These instructions do not include getting the last word or hating those who wrong us. Rather, His instructions for us are to love our enemies, forgive those who wrong us, and turn the other cheek.
However, some people argue that Christ’s instructions are outdated and no longer relevant to today’s society. They contend that Christ’s instructions do not take into account human nature. They believe that people are not always kind and forgiving.
And that’s exactly why we must try to be an example for those who believe in retaliation.
Go the Extra Mile
Do you know where this common phrase came from? It’s right here in Matthew. What did Jesus mean when He said: “Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.“?
In the day of Jesus, Israel was under Roman rule. And Roman only had two rules — obey our rules or die.
If a Roman soldier asked a Jew to carry their armor or anything else they had, the Jew had to carry it for one mile. Then the soldier would simply find another Jew for the next mile.
Jesus said to carry the bags or armor for two miles when told to carry one. Hence the statement; “go the extra mile“.
Christ asked His people to do more than expected out of kindness, just as He did for us.
Natural or Supernatural?
Our desire should not be to keep score, but to love and forgive just as Christ did. As humans, it is not natural for us to behave this way — it is supernatural. The Bible tells us that love is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs.
This is a difficult commandment to follow because we all have a natural inclination to retaliate against those who have wronged us. It takes a special kind of love, a supernatural kind, for us to forgive and move on.
The only way we can love as God commands is through God.
I forgive you
Instead of retaliation, pray for those who hurt you.
Forgiveness is like planting a seed and waiting for it to grow. Even when the soil feels dry and hard, if you plant it and nurture it, it can eventually blossom into a beautiful flower. As a result, when you forgive the person who harmed you, you might see society – and yourself – in a new light.
Love in Christ
If you would like to know more about the love and life-changing experience of Jesus Christ, please take just a quick moment to read John 3:16.