Confederate General William Henry Chase Whiting was a topnotch military leader during the Civil War, but he was known for speaking evil of General Robert E. Lee, the highly successful and beloved General of the Army of Northern Virginia. When Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States, asked Lee what he thought of General Whiting, Lee said, “He is one of the most able men in the entire Army.” When others around Lee asked him why he did not take the opportunity to get even with General Whiting, Lee simply replied, “It was my impression that the President wanted my opinion of General Whiting, not his opinion of me.”
Have you ever wanted to get even? It is hard to resist the temptation for revenge, to retaliate against someone who in one way or another has attacked us. That is the issue Jesus takes up next in His description of righteous living in His Kingdom. Our text is Matthew 5:38-42. I suspect we will all feel the Spirit of Jesus confront us on this one!
1. Before digging into this text, take a moment and probe your soul. How do you initially react to Jesus’ words here? What feelings does this text arouse? How are you inclined to respond to these words?
2. “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” has become a colloquialism in our culture, but it is very old! It comes from Moses. Look up the following texts:
• Exodus 21:22-25
• Leviticus 24:17-20
• Deuteronomy 19:21
3. What did you learn about this judicial principle commonly known as lex talionis (you might want to look that up!)? What was the purpose of this rule?
4. Where did this principle belong, in the civil arena or personal arena? From what Jesus says here, where were people applying this principle?
5. What is Jesus’ rule (v. 39)?
6. Here are some more texts of Scripture! What do these teach us?
• Leviticus 19:17-18
• Proverbs 20:22
• Romans 12:17, 19
• I Thessalonians 5:15
• I Peter 3:9
7. Jesus gives four illustrations of how this principle applies. What are they?
• Which of these four is most difficult for you to apply? Why?
8. If Jesus were addressing us today, what illustrations might He employ?
9. Consider these texts of Scripture:
• Isaiah 50:6
• Mark 14:60-65
• I Peter :21-23
• What did you learn?
10. Do you think there any limits to Jesus’ principle? If so, what are they?
11. How does being a Christian, a follower of Jesus who has come under His gracious rule help you in obeying Jesus in not resisting an evil person?
12. What do you think the Lord wants you to take away from this meditation?
God be with you and I hope to see you on Sunday!