We must handle it with all of Scripture in view.(1)
To prevent excessive punishments, an Old Testament law required an "eye for an eye."
In Matthew 5:38-48, Jesus says that law no longer applies.
Not only should we avoid excessive punishments, we should avoid all forms of personal revenge (Matthew 7:12; Romans 12:19).
We should pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44).(2)
But we will take this passage too far if we don't see it as part of the whole message of Scripture.
Jesus isn't telling us to ignore or embrace injustice.
Christians must speak and act against oppression, mistreatment, and injustice (Psalm 82:4; Proverbs 24:11), using appropriate channels (Romans 13:1-5).
We can also speak up when we're mistreated. Jesus did it and so did the Apostle Paul (John 18:22-23; Acts 16:35-37; Acts 23:1-11; Acts 22:25).
Sometimes, however, we should give up our own rights for the sake of our witness or the sake of others (1 Corinthians 6:6-7; Philippians 2:3-4).
Our sins brought Christ injustice. We can bear "slaps" in His strength (Philippians 4:13).
(1) (2 Timothy 2:15).
(2) Jesus didn’t abolish "the law and the prophets" -Matthew 5:17. He fulfilled the law and took us out from under its control (Romans 6:14;Galatians 3:11).
1. Read the passage carefully and list the type of actions it commands:
Matthew 5:38-48: “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.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
All of these commands need to be combined with the full counsel of Scripture so we can understand God's will (Romans 12:2). For example (v.42), it would be wrong to give to someone who asks for money to feed their addiction (Matthew 18:7) and wrong to give to someone who is too lazy to work (2 Thessalonians 3:10). This verse commands us to help those with genuine needs, not supply them with luxuries (Romans 12:20).
When we are called to love our enemies (v.43-48), this does not mean we have an affection for them. It means we treat them humanely as we wish to be treated. This is a type of love we can have for all men - even those we don't like. (See Trojan Horse Lie - Loving Self First).
2. Note that Jesus spoke up when His oppressors slapped Him. He did not take personal revenge on them. In fact, He prayed for their forgiveness from the Cross. "Turning the other cheek" doesn't mean doing and saying nothing.
John 18:22-23: When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded. 23 “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?”
Read one of the following incidents where Paul also stood up for his rights.
Acts 16:35-37; Acts 23:1-11; Acts 22:25
copyright 2017, Gail Burton Purath, Bite Size Bible Study