There is no directive to claim the tooth or the eye and forgo mercy.
by Dr. Marcus Warne for ReSermon.com, Marcus@DeeperWalkInternational.org
The following is excerpted and edited from a sermon series, “Living Right In a World Gone Wrong: Deep in the Walk” by Dr. Marcus Warner, President of Deeper Walk International, an Indianapolis-based ministry (http://www.deeperwalkinternational.com). Dr. Warner delivered this sermon on February 14, 2016 at Pathway Community Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. To see or hear Dr. Warner’s sermon in its entirety scroll down or click here. For more information about Dr. Warner or Deeper Walk International, click here.
A friend I’ll call Melissa recently conveyed to me that she and her mother had been fighting like cats and dogs. Melissa’s emails are always marked with accusations and fault-finding.
I wrote back, “As Christians, we're called to a higher standard. We can't just say, 'I'm justified in the way that I feel about them. I'm justified in the way I treat them.' Here is the question the Christian has to ask himself: How badly does that person have to behave in order to get me to turn in a different person and cease acting like a Christian?"
At Deeper Walk International, one of our most requested teaching topics falls in the area of relational health. Treating an image of God as an image of God is easy to say but can be hard to do, especially when disagreements crop up. We agree that relational health is important, but relational estrangement is the symptom of a deeper disease; Christians need to learn deeper skills in living the Christian life in the power of the Holy Spirit.
To be a Christian means that I am a child of my father in heaven. In Matthew 5:38-42, Jesus teaches that while he knows that the Jews want to use the “eye for eye and tooth for tooth” law in order to justify both justice and revenge, Jesus is teaching about what God originally wanted to effect through that law—a cap on punishment, not a directive to administer it in all cases.
Jesus is talking to Jews who were taught from an early age to huddle in groups and chant, "We are not Gentiles. We don't like Gentiles, especially Romans. Our disdain is justified because of who they are, and especially because how they are treating us now as a conquered land.”
Jesus is teaching that while justice is right, so is mercy. Jesus affirmed that his coming would not result in dropping even one letter of the law, but rather to fulfill that law. So we must carefully examine what he had in mind when he wrote his law and now is commenting and expositing on that law.
There is no directive to get an eye for an eye or tooth for a tooth. Children of God should not be busy justifying themselves along the spectrum of “What I deserve” but instead looking for opportunities to afford grace along the spectrum of mercy.
The world knows what is natural, and the job of the Christian is to show what is supernatural. In a day and age where it is no longer popular to be Christian, we really need to focus on how to contrast the natural and supernatural so that God’s way is a beautiful and resplendent option. Today, Christians are painted as the bad guys – the intolerant, the bigoted, etc. When the world hurls these accusations, we must remember who we are refusing to engage in the natural world order of tit-for-tat.
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By English: Cpl Erik Villagran [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons