Bible Society of South Africa

Do not seek vengeance - 24 June 2024

By Ewald Schmidt

Bible text(s)

Teaching about Revenge

38“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39But now I tell you: do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek too.

Matthew 5:38-39GNBOpen in Bible reader

In a perfect world, no person would be hurting another person and everyone would have been putting their neighbour first. But this perfect world does not exist since the fall of man. In our world, greed and self-centredness have taken over. When I keep on demanding to be the king on the throne of my heart, other people get hurt. Every one of us has experienced the pain caused by other people’s actions. Our normal reaction would be to try and restore the balance; we want to hit back and return the pain to the one who caused it. However, this spiral of actions leading to reactions is always multiplying, it is destroying our world.

Jesus quotes a passage that is found in three places in the Old Testament – in Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20 and Deuteronomy 19:21. The original intention of these verses was to put a cap on retribution when you were offended. Humankind has always been inclined to use violence as a payback when we suffer at the hands of another. Violence begets violence, it usually escalates beyond any control. The purpose of these verses was to curb an excessive reaction, to limit retribution to equal measure, not exceeding the offense committed against you. However, George Perry Graham said that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

Jesus brings an alternative to the table when quoting the Old Testament, when he again says “but I tell you …”. The principles of the kingdom of God are so different from the principles of this world. Jesus came to bear all the hate and violence of this world on himself, and he did not hit back. He has blessed where others have cursed. He came to save this world. He came to bring God’s mercy as an alternative to the revenge that we seek. He gave his life for us. This is what he also asks of us as his disciples. He asks of us to absorb the injustices and to leave the revenge in God’s hands. He asks of us to turn the other cheek when someone hits us.

I know from personal experience that this is extremely hard to obey. I have lost two family members to murder in South Africa. The old person in me wants to react with violence, taking justice into my own hands. I want to sort out the perpetrators myself! But Jesus asks of me to leave the revenge and punishment in the hands of God. When I carry feelings of hatred towards another, I become the first victim of that anger. My own peace and joy disappear, and hatred consumes every good feeling I could have had. However, there are so many testimonies of what could happen when we choose against hatred, to love our enemies and bless those that hurt us. The love of God becomes visible and lives can change by God’s mercy for good.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, this command is so difficult to obey! It is so hard to forgive those that have hurt me in the past. Teach me how to forgive, like you have forgiven me. Show me your ways, where love conquers the attempts of evil to ruin my life. Fill me with the power of your Spirit, strengthen me to be an example of your mercy. Amen

Bible Society of South Africav.4.21.9
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