The last several days, my allergies have really been bothering me. Yesterday morning at breakfast, I asked Janet to please pass me a Kleenex – and she handed me two, instead of the one that I had asked for. She smiled and I knew exactly what she was doing. My mind immediately went back years to the first time that my father taught me that you always do more than is expected. And that even applies to Kleenex. He told me, way back when I was a young guy, that you always pass at least two tissues – never one – and when someone asks for the salt, you also pass them the pepper – never one without the other.
I had to chuckle as Janet reminded me of my father’s mandate; after all, she knew him from the time she was a very young girl – and had learned the same lesson that I learned. I was struggling so much with my nose that I was glad I had two tissues! But our conversation got me thinking about biblical mandates and the things that Jesus expects of us as Christians.
One of the most misunderstood verses in the New Testament has to do with a verse we have all heard, from Matthew 5:38, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” People think that this is a directive to make sure that you punish people who have wronged you. But in truth, it is a mandate to limit the punishment that a person exacts in the name of justice. In the ancient times, it was common for people to respond to being wronged by reacting and escalating the interaction. For example, killing someone who robbed them. This was not “an eye for an eye” and this passage in Matthew reminds us that we are to limit our response to an aggravating, hurtful or even unlawful situation.
Conversely, we are to reach out and give others more than they ask or require of us. In fact, Matthew lets us know the correct course of action, our verse for the night, in the verse following the one I just mentioned above. So here is the context of the entire passage. The disciple tells us, in Matthew 5:38-42, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”
These are compelling words, to say the least. Not only are we to limit our retribution against our enemies, we are to go the extra mile and demonstrate a Christlike behavior in our everyday interactions. My encouragement this evening is that Christ is watching us and is proud of us when we learn the lessons that He is trying to teach us through His Word. My prayer this evening is that God will give you the courage to stay the course and love each other well – beyond what is required and into the realm of what is possible. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace… and would you please pass me a Kleenex?