In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus famously issued this radical command to all who would follow Him:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” (Matthew 5:38,39)
This powerful message of forgiveness has the potential to transform our lives and the world around us, but what exactly did Jesus mean when he told his followers to “turn the other cheek?”
As a Christian for many years, I must say that I’ve heard many explanations of this passage that usually suggest that it is not about violence but more about “interpersonal relationships.”
Strangely, I’ve rarely (if ever) heard a sermon that digs into the Old Testament context of Christ’s command.
In fact, one simple way to understand what Jesus meant by this command is to look at the context of the Mosaic law that Christ is referring to.
Namely, the Old Testament command “eye for eye, tooth for tooth.”
The phrase “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” is part of the legal code in the Torah and is often referred to as the law of retaliation or lex talionis.
The principle of lex talionis is an ancient legal concept that was adopted by various legal systems and is reflected in various religious texts, including the Old Testament. In essence, it is the idea that a punishment should fit the crime, or that the punishment should be proportional to the harm caused.
This phrase appears three times in the Mosaic law.
1) Exodus 21:24 – In this passage, the law is in reference to a pregnant woman who is maimed or murdered as a result of two men who are fighting/warring.
2) Leviticus 24:20 – This passage refers to a person who is “disfigured” (i.e. injured) by another man.
3) Deuteronomy 19:21 – This passage refers to a person who is being falsely accused of a capital offense (likely worthy of death) by a false witness.
In all these cases, retaliation against the guilty party is demanded in proportion to the harm caused.
In this new video, we take a deep dive into these biblical texts and examine the historical context that Jesus’ audience knew well to gain a clearer understanding of Christ’s radical command to not repay evil for evil, even to one’s enemies.
Whether you’re a long-time Christian or just curious about the teachings of Jesus, this short video is a must-watch!
Join us as we discover Christ’s radical message of forgiveness and nonviolent enemy love together in this new video.