Matthew 5:38-39: “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.”

Jesus of Nazareth came to expand our horizons. He addresses many things in His Sermon on the Mount, one of which is our approach to revenge. Under the Law of Moses the Israelites were allowed to request an “eye for an eye”; in other words, punishment for wrongdoing had to be within reasonable limits.

It used to be common practice to exaggerate punishment. Here is a true story: The sons of Jacob committed murder and devastated an entire tribe over the rape of their sister Dinah. An example of insane revenge, the book of Genesis describes their punitive actions in sobering detail (Genesis 34:25-29):

“Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male. They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword and took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left. The sons of Jacob came upon the dead bodies and looted the city where their sister had been defiled. They seized their flocks and herds and donkeys and everything else of theirs in the city and out in the fields. They carried off all their wealth and all their women and children, taking as plunder everything in the houses.”

The eye for an eye law was very progressive at the time; it clearly reduced unjust and cruel punishment. Jesus, however, progressed even further. In His mind revenge is completely off limits – and for good reasons: We know that nobody wins if we insist on revenge. “An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind” is Mahatma Gandhi’s input who endorsed nonviolent resistance.

Following Jesus will change our perspective and teach us a new way of life – a life less exclusive and more inclusive, and a heart that grows bigger because we are no longer restricted to a mindset that solely revolves around us.

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