Surprise! Retaliation solves nothing
Pastor Mark Jeske
The criminal code that God set up for his brand-new nation of Israelites, newly freed from Egyptian slavery, was not intended for all people of all time. Israelite society was tribal. There were no civil institutions, no police, no government employees, no IRS, and no prisons. It would be decades before there were stable towns and actual houses for people to live in. The rough “frontier” justice that was provided for Israel circa 1440 b.c. was not a timeless model.
People love revenge fantasies, and so it’s no shock to note that people at Jesus’ time found justification in the old tribal code for private and personal vengeance. They liked the basic philosophy of “an eye for an eye.” But Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person” (Matthew 5:38,39).
It’s not that Jesus is allowing violent criminals to get away with their crimes. The Roman government would catch some of them and mete out judgment. But all evildoers will be judged in God’s court, sooner or later. What Jesus discouraged was the popular justification for a personal vengeance crusade.
Jesus’ advice is really helpful today. In our terribly secular and violent world, if everyone acted on “eye for eye and tooth for tooth,” we’d all be blind and unable to chew our food.
Violent retaliation just begets more violent retaliation.
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