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Kingdom standards are high standards; do not seek revenge!

Rev Enoch Thompson | FEBRUARY 7, 2023 | MATTHEW 5:38-42


Matthew 5:38-39

³⁸"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' ³⁹But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. Matthew 5:38-39 (NIV)


Revenge is a natural response of the human mind when we feel offended or violated by other people. Kingdom citizens need to respond to offences they suffer at the hands of other people, and the Lord Jesus Christ gives the rule for this, once again showing that God’s demands of His people are always over and above the natural responses of humans.

The Ancient world civilizations had what was called the laws of retaliation which the Lord refers to: "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' (Matthew 5:38). The Old Testament sustained the laws of retaliation (see Ex 21:24; Lev 24:20; Deut 19:21). One wonders why God did not immediately rule out the law of retaliation.

The answer to that question lies in the same reason why God did not forbid slavery in the New Testament, to avoid possible social chaos and confusion that could result with the sudden cultural implications of such a change. The ancient Hebrews were accustomed to the laws of retaliation as it was practiced among ancient peoples; the revenge for an offence was often retaliated beyond the scope of the offence- a head was cut for a hurt of an eye. And so, God instated in Israel His provision to regulate the retaliation for offences suffered. Similarly, the population imbalance of more slaves than free citizens in the Roman world would have created a revolution in society if converts to Christianity were made to suddenly free all slaves. What the Bible did in both cases was to inject into both Jewish society in the Old Testament, and in the first-century world, the principles of respect for others leading to a measured vengeance, and the principle of brotherhood in the first century, when Christianity was spreading, which eventually moved men like William Wilberforce and his Christian friends in Parliament to rise and fight against slavery, and to bring it to an end.

Kingdom standards instruct believers in Christ to avoid retaliation and be ready to suffer additional pain and offences from those who cause them pain (v. 39). If people used the legal system to deprive us of what is rightly ours, we must be ready to allow them to take away from us whatever else, they may want to defraud us of (v. 40). When people used political power to oppress us, we should be willing to suffer their abuse further and not revenge (v. 42).


What does all of the above mean? The Christian law of non-revengefulness does not mean an irresponsible inaction when people plan to attack our family members who are dependent on our protection and seek to do them harm. “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Tim 5:8 (NIV). We are not to take revenge, for vengeance belongs to God.


Dear Lord, I am overwhelmed by the demands of the Kingdom upon my vengeful heart. Please forgive me for the times I have sought to take vengeance into my own hands. Lord, please heal your Church of a heart of revengefulness, and teach us to take care of our families by using the justice system to protect our dependents.

Please give me the wisdom to know when and how to use the legal system to bring perpetrators of evil to book, In Jesus’ Name, Amen.



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