Episode 19 - Retaliation - Part 2
February 10, 2023
Or listen here:
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us God’s heart. The religious rulers and teachers of His day had perverted the Law, creating loopholes to get out of following it. As a result, they effectively became law breakers. Jesus chose six examples of their false teaching and dismantled each.
That’s the backdrop to the following passage, another false teaching of His day:
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 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. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
The topic Jesus is addressing is retaliation, our urge to get even; but, it’s more too. It’s about the quality and aim of our hearts. How we should think and feel in a positive sense.
Hey, I'm Matt Brownell.
And I'm Van Owens.
And I'm Tim Adams.
Welcome to Climbing the Mountain, where we dive into the scriptures and discuss themes,
connections, and real life application.
We're kicking off a series here where we're going to examine the Sermon on the Mount and
discuss implications for this teaching for Christians today.
In Matthew 5:38-42, it says, you have heard that it was said, eye for an 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.
And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.
If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.
Give to the one who asks you and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from
Last time we started looking at the first couple of verses, and we saw how what was happening
in that society was you had this saying, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, which was something
that was supposed to be applied in a court of law, then being taken down to the average
everyday life, interpersonal conflicts, which was wrong.
And there was something I found in Leviticus that just totally puts this to rest.
You'll find this very familiar because it's the second greatest commandment, Leviticus
We've all heard the, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
But right before that, it says, you shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against
the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
And so Jesus is getting at the heart of something when he says, but I tell you, do not resist
an evil person.
Now let's spend some more time with that.
He gives three more examples right after that that point to the kind of heart we are supposed
The first is someone suing you to take your tunic.
The second being requisitioned.
At that time, Romans could force someone to carry something for them up to a mile.
Simon of Cyrene is an example of that.
He's forced to carry Jesus' cross to Golgotha.
The third example is of someone asking you for something.
No one likes to be wronged, inconvenienced, or even begged.
On the one hand, should we enable every evil behavior and give charlatans and con artists
what they want?
Or is Jesus advocating something else?
What's he getting at here?
What should our heart be?
So I think one thing to bring up when we talk about these examples, I guess there's also
the zero one of someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other also, is that
Jesus is being very subversive here.
And he is advocating for very subversive behavior.
Now it's not the subversive that we typically think of, which is using force in a subtle
or not subtle way to get what I want.
But in each of these examples, there's someone that's being taken advantage of.
And the power dynamic is such that there's someone above and someone below.
And Jesus speaks to the person below and he tells them to not resist, but he does it in
a way that challenges the existing power dynamic.
So if someone slaps you on the right cheek, you talked about this, Matt, it's basically
an insult because you have to do it with either the backhand, basically the backhand because
you're right handed.
Most people are right handed.
And it's an assault to your identity, it's an assault to your pride, and you're standing
there and you're looking at them and you turn the other one.
You can say that, oh, that person's just being weak, but is that what a weak person does?
No, a weak person would flinch and run away.
And instead, this person says, I see what you did, I see what you think of me.
Let's just sit in that.
If you really think that way, go all out.
Let's do that again.
And it challenges the person who did this insult while still respecting them as a person
and not retaliating.
And I guess just the other one, if someone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand
over your coat as well.
It's probably hard for us to think about people suing each other for clothing because clothing
is so cheap these days, but go with it.
So there's someone's trying to take, I think coat is also like tunic and other things.
People didn't have much clothing back then.
So your shirt is something you're wearing on top and your coat or your tunics, I think
basically your undergarments.
Point being, you don't have many clothes on your body.
Clothes are really expensive.
So someone's trying to take off that.
And yeah, you're undressing, right?
You're undressing in front of them to say, OK.
Just the coat.
Here you go.
It challenges the status quo.
It challenges like, yes, I'm lower than you, therefore, you can take something from me.
So I think it's really important to bring that up because the claim, regardless of how
we interpret this passage, the easy argument against it is you're just being a pushover,
And Jesus is not saying we're being a pushover.
He just has different ways of overthrowing the system.
He's not weak at all.
So when you go to somebody who strikes you on one cheek and turn the other.
So being weak in that situation could be cowering or falling on your knees.
Please don't hit me again.
It could be running away.
It could be, I'm sorry, master, you're obviously I've offended you in some way, but it also
could be striking back.
And I think that's part of what Jesus is saying is that I love what you said about this being
subversive because it really is.
And it's almost like the phrase of heaping, you know, having somebody heap hot coals on
their heads by the way that you behave.
That you, you remove, you remove their power or their perceived sense of power because
by turning the other cheek, you essentially say that meant nothing to me.
That did not mean to me what it meant to you.
You think that you're offending me.
You can't offend me.
I'm a son of God.
It's impossible for you to offend me.
That's where the blessed is the meek really, really comes into play that idea of absorbing
I think this is hard.
It's really hard.
It's just super hard.
You have sort of what you would want to do, what you think is right to do.
But then when you imagine the actual situation, you're like, would I really do that though?
And if it was in my power, sometimes I think I would do more than I, you know, like that,
you were talking about that.
I mean, I remember when I was a, I was working a really, really crappy job one summer and
I was doing road paving.
There's nothing wrong with that, but I'll tell you why it was crappy.
They found out that I was going to college the next year.
My mom was bragging about me with one of the, she saw them at the supermarket and, oh, hey
That's why I heard on Monday, hey, heard you go enough to college.
And so then the rest of that summer was hell.
Like they had a broken piece of machinery and they would take that one out.
One of the, one of the sides where the asphalt would come out was broken and you had to shovel
and they took that one out.
Even though they had one that was fine and both wings worked fine.
They took that one out so I could shovel nonstop.
So I remember what it was like to work.
And I had so many bad thoughts in my head that summer of wanting to get even fantasizing
of retaliating and man, the, when I, but when I look at this stuff, I think the one that
gets me the most right now is the, someone asking for something.
You know, how many times do I see someone begging on the street and I just want to pretend
like I don't see them.
And I could just walk by and I walk faster or I pretend I don't see them at all.
Ultimately, I mean, I don't think it's good to give a con artist what he's asking.
I don't think that's actually good.
I don't think it's helping his real needs.
And I think it facilitates hurting others, including ourselves.
But I think in each of these examples, we're inconvenienced in some way.
It's out of our comfort zone by extreme or small measures.
But it's, you know, someone trying to take something away from us, someone making us
serve them, someone simply asking for help, whether someone trying, forcing or asking
our heart should, should be open to others around us.
And I think that's the thing that, that I'm wrestling with is having that quality of heart.
And it does come to a head with money in like this very visceral way.
And I find, I find the parallel passage in Luke very enlightening with this.
Before that, I think there's a pithy statement I heard once, which I do think is actually
useful to get what you're saying with the con artist.
Jesus doesn't say, give to the one who asks you exactly what they asked.
He just says, give to the one who asks you.
So there's some room to, you know, sometimes, yeah, there's a lot of creativity that's there.
But he's saying, don't turn away, right?
Don't turn away from that person.
You know, I was just thinking Peter and John are walking around.
Was it John?
And I was like, hey, we don't have any money, but here's what we do have.
And share my faith with you.
That's like really cool.
And but yeah, so in Luke 6, it kind of merges some of the do not resist in your person section
and the love for enemies section.
But it says, if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?
Even sinners love those who love them.
If you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you?
Even sinners do that.
And it says, if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to
Even sinners lend to sinners expecting to be repaid in full.
And it says, but love your enemies, do good to them and lend to them without expecting
to get anything back.
And so I've always thought that that's really challenging because the love your enemies
in Matthew five, which we'll talk about, doesn't have a ton of specifics.
This one really gets to the heart of how I deal with my money and like, oh, I can do
I can get taken advantage of with my money.
And that's okay in Jesus' mind.
That's a real good one because I've been in situations where I've lent to people and
part of me is like, oh, I don't really have it.
I really need them to pay it back.
And it's always been better when I've been able to just say, okay, I may not get this
And okay, I'm all right with this.
And I love the way it's phrased there in Luke do good to them that even if you don't
have money to give them, is there some good you can do?
Is there some good for you?
That is really, really helpful.
It clarifies it.
And you, you know, when you read a passage that's really challenging and you hear something
else that clarifies it, there's something in me that always hopes it makes it easier.
But it actually doesn't make it easier.
It makes it a little bit.
It makes it, it, it, it emphasizes what exactly the challenge is.
If I'm walking down the street and someone asked me for money and I don't have any to
give them, I, I shouldn't ignore them.
I shouldn't pretend they're not there.
I should do some good and doing good.
It's almost easier to just say, you know what?
I'm just going to keep a couple of bucks in my pocket so that I can just give it to them
because doing good is difficult.
So let me ask another question.
How, how do we apply Jesus's teaching here to our 21st century lives?
Are there any examples that come to mind?
Yeah, I think the, the obvious example to me for our day and age, especially because
it's directly out of scripture is lawsuits.
So first Corinthians 6:1-9, Paul's talking about lawsuits with between
two believers and he basically is like, how, how, how can you possibly, you know, sue one
another as brothers and then bring that before some court that's not, that's not in the church,
Can't you judge cases for yourself?
So, I mean, there's, there's going to be disputes between people, but then he kind
of set, takes a step back in verse seven and he says, the very fact that you have lawsuits
among you means you've been completely defeated already.
Why not rather be wronged?
Why not rather be cheated?
Did you yourselves cheat and do wrong and you do this to your brothers and sisters?
And this is the part that blew me away when I read this yesterday that that's right before
that section that were, most people are more, more familiar with.
He says, or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God?
And he lists all these really bad things, but it's like just, for him, it's the exact
same thoughts, right?
And so that, that to me, I mean, we have so many lawsuits in our, in our culture.
Like it's just accepted.
And I, I think, I don't know too many people myself who have been in a ton of lawsuits.
I know some, that's probably just because I'm young though, and people don't really
have any money when they're young.
And so the older I get, you know, the more that's going to happen.
But that mindset, why not rather be wrong?
Why not rather be cheated?
That is like, yeah, completely different.
It's the mindset of non retaliation.
I think for me, the way, the way that I've seen it is I see it a lot in, in work culture.
There's the phrase throwing someone under the bus.
And you always know when someone's throwing you under the bus.
And for me, it's, it's very difficult when I know that someone did that to me, called
me out in a meeting.
For instance, this is a very real example.
This happens to me, has happened to me before and it's happened several times, get called
out in a meeting for something that I'm either, that I either actually did and should be maybe
called out for, or more often than not, something that I didn't actually do, but being called
And how will I respond to that?
And it's very easy for me to want to exact some kind of vengeance, but to do it properly.
In other words, to find something that that person actually really did do, that they really
need to be called out for and to call them out for it, which I think is a violation of
the spirit of what Jesus is talking about here.
And what I need to do and what, and when I'm in my right mind, when I'm, when I'm, when
I'm doing right and thinking spiritually like I ought to be doing, I say, you know what,
next time he's in the office, I'm going to go down to his office and I'm just going to
do some good.
I'm just going to say hi.
I'm just going to visit with him.
I'm going to not take what he threw out.
I'm not going to acknowledge it.
I'm going to attempt to do some good, which I'd like to say I do that every time, but
honestly it's just really hard.
It's hard not to retaliate and not only hard not to retaliate, but then to do the other
thing, which is to do good.
You know, Jesus didn't retaliate when he was going to the cross, but he also, you know,
forgave the insurrectionists who were crucified beside him.
He also, you know, healed the servant whose ear was chopped off.
He was doing all this good while all this undeserved evil was being thrown at him.
And that's the example that he sets.
And, you know, again, it's just, it's really challenging.
It is challenging.
When I was thinking about this, I made it a little bit more personal with how I had an
epiphany when my wife and I started having children.
When my wife was pregnant with my first child, it suddenly dawned on me, there's a piece
of me in her and she's going through all of this suffering so that our child can be born.
And you want me to do that for you, honey?
You want me to drive to this place in Timbuktu that has your favorite ice cream?
And I honestly didn't feel bad or inconvenienced or put out or anything because I was like,
I'm so grateful for her and wanted to just, oh, my goodness, I love you.
How can I help you?
You're so uncomfortable.
What can I do to help?
And it got me thinking about it's really that having that kind of a state of mind, I guess,
with other people, I don't know how to do that.
I'm not going to, that would be weird if I considered everyone like my wife.
You know, like having a, maybe treating everyone that they've all been created in God's image,
maybe some of them don't know that yet, that everyone has value and opening my hearts to
them, my heart to them.
The other thing I was thinking about was a small story, but after my second child was
born, I don't think he was fully cooked before he got out of the oven.
I think his intestines needed to stay in there a little bit longer and get some more cooking.
Anyway, he would cry for like four hours straight every time he ate.
And at the time, Netta was also going through severe postpartum.
And so I, I just remember this situation where, you know, James is crying on my shoulder,
inconsoluble, uh, really getting around and, and Netta's just told me something really
heartbreaking that she was feeling.
And then my, my son, my oldest son comes in, he looks pale and he's like, I don't feel
good all over me.
Now I lived in a fraternity house for a while.
If someone was puking, that was a signal, not, no thanks, go away.
I'm nothing to do with you.
And let me get out of this situation.
That was not my heart when that happened.
It was, Oh, how can I take care of you?
This is horrible.
Let me, let me, you know, and it was one where I was completely inconvenienced.
It was disgusting.
And heartbreaking and emotional and just all kinds of things.
But my heart was never, this is, I don't like you or, you know, it was more like, no,
I, I do, I love you.
So I don't know.
I think there's something in that where we decide that we have decided, no, I really
like this person.
I really, I love this person.
I've decided to love them.
And this is where we can't separate, you know, these concepts of not resisting with loving.
But recognizing there's this, yeah, recognizing that we're all, in one sense, we are all brothers
and sisters, right?
And like there's not, not everyone is a follower of Christ, but we've all come from, we all
come from God.
And it is, especially when you live in the city and you see so many people on a day to
day basis, and the internet makes that much easier where it was just like so much that
comes at us like thousands and thousands and thousands of people or ideas in a day.
It's so easy to just shut it off.
Like I, I can't, I can't even imagine carrying, carrying, carrying for, you know, these people.
But that does seem to be the call that Jesus is making.
Well, what do you think is the ultimate solution then to all this suffering that Jesus describes?
He's talked about the stinging insult, the, you know, someone trying to grab, sue you,
the disrespectful compulsion, you know, forcing you to do something or just the uncomfortable
asking for stuff.
What do you, what do you think is, how do we, what's the solution to all of this?
You know, again, this, this is an indication to me of how, how challenging it is to follow
the example of Christ and how much I need God, how much I need his Holy Spirit in me,
how much I need to do everything that I can to stay in tune with the spirit and mostly
how much I need the community again, how much I need the church, meaning all of the people
in it, that I know that who I am, I am not going to be able to live this out by myself.
And so I need, I need my brothers and sisters to be able to point out to me when I'm falling
I need the examples of my brothers and sisters to be able to see ways that I can change or
ways that I can implement.
I need, I need all of that.
I think the only way that we can get to a solution in, in this area is through God,
His Holy Spirit in the church.
I just don't think that there's another way to do it.
You know, I suppose that maybe there's somebody out there who has moral strength enough to
be able to do that on their own, but I only know for sure that there was one person who
And I've never seen, I've never seen anybody with my eyes living a perfect life.
And this is, this is a passage that calls us to a height that we can't possibly attain
There is something that it reminds us of how incomplete we are and how much we need Jesus.
I think that's the thing I was thinking of too is that, and in Jesus we see that He's
suffered for our sins and puts an end to all of our need for, or desire for revenge.
It's really His example that we're looking to.
And when we keep our eyes focused on Him, it helps, it helps put out that fire inside
of us that says get even, get, you know, I need to get even and it helps put that out.
I mean, when we suffer because someone is genuinely, they're sinning against us, right?
And that's where suffering comes from.
And our desire to retaliate and get revenge is, it comes up so quick and it can feel like
if I don't get revenge here, justice will not be served.
But also if we continue to seek revenge, then we get into the eye for an eye makes the whole
world go blind.
Which I think Gandhi said that, but that might have just been a movie.
But I think that's not just a bumper sticker.
But I can't really remember.
It's a pretty pithy bumper sticker.
It's a pithy bumper sticker.
But yeah, so I mean, there's this one line, it comes at the end of a passage in 1 Peter,
but it's the end of 1 Peter 4 and it just says, those who suffer according to God's
will, should commit themselves to a faithful creator and continue to do good.
And it comes right after the section of that there is going to be a time where judgment
is going to come.
And God will make all things right.
There will finally be justice.
And I can trust God to bring justice.
And my role in all of that is to not just to mete out vengeance in the short term, but
to do good in the meantime.
And I mean, yeah, that's really easy to say.
But Van, when you guys are talking about, and you especially were just like, I need
I need the spirit for this.
How easy it is to say these words and how hard it is to walk out of this room and put
it into practice.
But this is, I think the calling to, we entrust ourselves to God and we say, you know what's
going to happen to us, you know how this is all going to work out.
I trust that I am going to be okay with you, even if the short term doesn't feel okay.
And I'm going to continue to do good.
I like that you mentioned, 1 Peter, a lot of that has to do with suffering.
And a lot of it talks about the passions that wage war against our soul.
We've talked about that passage before.
And it's got that great passage where we see Jesus's example of entrusting himself to
him who judges justly.
And part of this is just taking it out of our hands and putting it back on God and trusting
And if we're being hurt or taken advantage of, we trust God and we know he sees it.
And so he's allowed it to happen.
And so we trust him and we keep moving forward and we have an open heart, even when things
don't really work out the way we want.
We don't want to be like Esau, right?
He sold his birthright.
You didn't have the long in mind.
He just reacted to those passions that welled up inside of him.
It reminds me too of, there's a passage in James that, you know, yes, what causes fights
and quarrels among you, right?
Isn't it, they come from your desires that they have within you.
So this is doing battle with those desires that are within us and by trusting God.
This has been a great discussion.