I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
Do you remember the Academy Award-winning movie “The Untouchables”? Sean Connery plays a tough Irish-American cop in 1930s Chicago. He and FBI agent Eliot Ness, played by Kevin Costner, are trying to root out Al Capone’s mob syndicate. There is a key scene in which Connery’s character says to Ness, “You wanna get Capone? Here’s how you get him. He pulls a knife; you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital; you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way!”
Retaliation, revenge–that is the American way, isn’t it? We live by the phrase “Don’t get mad; get even.” Which makes Jesus’s words in Matthew 5:38-48 all the more mind-boggling. This is perhaps the most familiar but least understood portion of the entire Sermon on the Mount. In fact, it is a passage that has caused many people to turn away from the Bible, claiming that Scripture is unrealistic and irrelevant to our culture today.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In this passage, Jesus gave us some straight talk about how to deal with our enemies. He began, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (vv. 38-39).
Remember, this sermon is not a checklist for getting into heaven but direction for living after you are assured of heaven. It is the path to genuine joy in this life. And what Jesus prescribed was completely different than what the Pharisees and scribes understood. Their laws were not necessarily wrong; they just did not go far enough. They dealt with external behavior, but Jesus was interested in the internal attitudes that fuel our external behavior.
For example, the Old Testament says, in essence, “Do not murder”; Jesus said, “Do not even hate another person.” The Old Testament says, “Do not sleep with somebody else’s mate”; Jesus said, “Do not even think about sleeping with somebody else’s mate.” And as we will see this week, the Old Testament says, “Do not engage in excessive retaliation”; Jesus said, “Do not retaliate at all; instead, love and pray for your enemies.”
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Straight Talk About Your Enemies” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2022.
“The Untouchables,” dir. Brian De Palma, 2007 Blu-ray (Los Angles: Paramount Pictures, 1987).
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org