It’s a divided world we live in. It seems arguments are more prevalent than regular conversations in many cases. Hostility is the tone of a generation and I believe that this grieves the heart of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
Matthew 5:38-40 says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”
Judges in this time and culture did indeed use the code of “An eye for eye and tooth for tooth” for serious crimes that made it to trial, but the Jews at this time brought this ideology into their more trivial personal matters. It sounds familiar right? Our flesh cannot stand not having the last word, not fighting back, not getting revenge. We do these things in the name of justice, but may I remind you, dear friend, of Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Just a few verses later in Matthew 5:44-45 Jesus says, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” Jesus preached a truly unconditional love. It’s so easy to say we love someone unconditionally, but that isn’t always entirely true, is it? The minute we have a falling out or a fight with a friend, the minute we enter into an argument, we don’t show love, we show hate. We show hostility and the desire for revenge. Jesus challenges us to love even when it hurts, even when it doesn’t make sense, even when it disagrees with our flesh, even when we are not loved in return. If the kind of love we are showing others stops the minute they sin or commit an offense against us, we aren’t loving with the love of God. We are loving with a cheap, earthly version of love. If God loved us with the kind of love we often give from our flesh, we would be lost.
Jesus modeled this love for us on the cross. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” A direct correlation to what Jesus says about love in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.”
We cannot evangelize with our lives, we cannot show people the love of Christ, if we are only outwardly practicing the desires of our flesh. I encourage you this week to think of these verses when you’re presented with challenges. When you’re presented with the temptation to have the last word, to trade an eye for an eye, to “get even” or get revenge, choose unconditional love. Everyone you encounter is someone that is fearfully and wonderfully made, loved unconditionally, and paid for by the blood of Jesus just like you are. We are charged by Jesus to love them, to turn the other cheek, to practice 70x7 forgiveness.