Friday, February 3, 2012

Getting Even!

Have you ever been cut off by someone on the road and you want a little payback so you ride their bumper or race to get in front of them so you can return the favor?

Your friend stabs you in the back and you wait in the tall grass until you can repay the favor.

Or your coworker or boss has you spend a ton of extra time on your own (weekends and evenings) doing a project only to have them take all of the credit, glory and more than a few attaboys form those higher up!

Life seems to be full of events that just beg for payback!

Have you ever considered God’s position on paybacks?

In the Old Testament the concept of “an eye for a eye” seems harsh in today’s culture but actually it was designed to stop the escalating of retaliations like a head for a eye. Reflecting over some of the famous feuds in fiction as the Montagues and Capulets of Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet or history like the Hatfields and the McCoys of the southern hills of the United States points to how long lasting feuds and their consequences can be.

Hammurabi was one of the first rulers to codify the limiting of retribution as well as some 281 other laws. Some have suggested that the Old Testament writers used this code to help them codify the laws of the Old Testament while others claim that the oral traditions of the Jewish law existed prior to Hammurabi. Regardless of which side you fancy the truth still remains that the law existed to limit the scope of reprisals.

So when the Law teaches us an eye for an eye it is talking about proportionate reprisals. Unfortunately today we still tend to often go for the nuclear response for a minor infraction. We have morphed the proportionate reprisals into a principle of aggressive protection of one’s own interests!

So Jesus comes along and says:
 38 "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'
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.
Matthew 5:38-42 (NIV)
The words “I tell you…” creates a whole new way of looking at getting even. He starts with our being struck on the right cheek that is most likely is caused by a right-handed person backhanding. This is not about a beat down but rather a personal insult! How do you and I respond being insulted? Usually we retaliate but Jesus suggests that we continue to be vulnerable and allow God to stand up for us.

19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.
Romans 12:19 (NIV)

Jesus himself modeled this for us while he was here

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.
1 Peter 2:23 (NIV)

So we are encouraged to imitate Christ and not to seek retribution.

A pretty BIG challenge - especially for me! How about you??

I hope to continue this theme in the next blog or two

Learning to understand suffering

Pastor Val

No comments: