A 40 Day Journey to Becoming Like the One We Follow
Day 37: Un-Retaliatory (Matthew 5:38-39)
We live in a world that loves revenge, payback, getting even. You hit me, I hit you back harder. But as anyone with an ounce of understanding knows, violence breeds more violence. There is no end to “getting even.” It’s never even. It’s never payback, it’s always payback with interest.
Martin Luther King, Jr., knew this full well. The African American communities across the country during the Jim Crow era witnessed atrocities on a regular basis. Any perceived slight against a white citizen by a person of color could lead to entire towns being razed to the ground. Lynching was a terror-inducing threat hanging over the head of every little boy with darker skin.
It was never about payback. It was always about upping the violence to exert power and control. If only it had stopped with “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” Violence breeds nothing but more violence. That’s why violence must be met with non-violence in return. That’s the only way to break the cycle. Someone has to say “enough.”
So MLK and his branch of the civil rights movement were focused on non-violent resistance.
In telling his followers to “turn the other cheek,” Jesus is urging us to put an end to the vicious cycle of violence, revenge, and payback. “Eye for an eye” is one of the oldest legal codes in the world. But as Gandhi famously said, “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”
I hope this week you are taking some time to reflect on the Passion narratives in the Gospels. Jesus was beaten, mocked, spit on, slapped, beaten some more, falsely accused of all sorts of things – but he never spoke up in his own defense. He never retaliated. He was the one who truly held all power and authority. But as his enemies were nailing him to a cross and hurling insults at him, he cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Paul, drawing on the example of Christ, urges us not to return evil for evil, but overcome evil by doing good. That’s the only way any of us can keep the world from going blind.
Excellent comments. I couldn’t agree more.