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Case study no. 1: how Jesus applied (and went beyond) the Bible

January 18, 2022

Daily Scripture

Leviticus 24:18-20; Matthew 5:38-45

Leviticus 24:18-20

18 Someone who kills an animal may make amends for it: a life for a life. 19 If someone injures a fellow citizen, they will suffer the same injury they inflicted: 20 broken bone for broken bone, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. The same injury the person inflicted on the other will be inflicted on them.

Matthew 5:38-45

38 “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth [Exodus 21:24, also Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21]. 39 But I say to you that you must not oppose those who want to hurt you. If people slap you on your right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well. 40 When they wish to haul you to court and take your shirt, let them have your coat too. 41 When they force you to go one mile, go with them two. 42 Give to those who ask, and don’t refuse those who wish to borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor [Leviticus 19:18] and hate your enemy. 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you 45 so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Students of ancient history see a world in which revenge often went beyond the original injury (e.g. “you hurt me, I’ll kill your whole family”). The law in Leviticus 24 (and Exodus 21, Deuteronomy 19) made revenge proportional—“an eye for an eye”—and averted massive retaliation. Israel’s law of proportional revenge was more merciful than most. But Jesus didn’t feel bound to be “consistent” with that. He said his kingdom led his followers into more radical, difficult territory: “Love your enemies.”

  • “The Bible is more than just a big book of inspirational verses and some do’s and don’ts. It’s a story. And like any story, it requires proper context. The Bible we hold…today has been translated across multiple languages and was originally written in a culture much different than ours…. without proper context you will ultimately read the Bible out of context.” * How can you learn to better relate all the Bible’s “pieces” to the big story it tells about God and God’s ways?
  • We think of ourselves as more enlightened than the ancient world. But we still sell T-shirts and bumper stickers saying things like “I don’t get mad—I get even.” How does replacing a wish for revenge with an ideal of mutual love and service alter human relationships for the better? In what ways does Jesus’ teaching speak to the spirit in which you deal with others?

Lord God, phrases like “massive retaliation” and “force is the only language they understand” still tempt me. Please keep leading me into the quality of love that Jesus taught. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Denise Mersmann

Denise Mersmann

Denise serves as the Care Coordination Director for the churchwide Care Central department at Church of the Resurrection.

Years ago, when I was a young mom, I watched a little girl hit her sister while they sat in their double stroller. Before I even had a chance to process what happened, their mom grabbed the hitter out of the stroller, and as she was spanking her child, punctuated each word: “We do not hit, that is not OK.” All I could think was, how in the world can you possibly help a child understand “no hitting” by hitting them?

Even after many years, that scene still plays itself out in my mind over and over. For some reason, the punishment for a behavior that this mom found so atrocious was repeating the behavior. Truly a hit for a hit.

It occurred to me at that moment that if I was ever angry enough that my best option for dealing with my children was to hit them, I needed to step away and stay away until I had a chance to come up with a better plan.

As I read today’s Scripture I thought once again about that mom and the message she sent that child. And I think about our society right now and wonder-–when are we going to stop striking out at people we don’t agree with, when are we going to stop trying to make sure we don’t let anyone get the best of us? Are we ever going to find another way to handle our frustration?

I mean, really, isn’t that the picture of our society–who we are becoming?
–You can’t tell me what to do, but I will force my will on you because I know better.
–I won’t do something I don’t want to do no matter how much it helps you, all that matters is what matters to me.
–I was insulted by something that you said, so I will spew hateful things about you, as publicly as possible.
–People are shooting people, so I’m going to get a gun.

This is not the solution. This is not our call as God’s people. What would happen if we laid aside our weapons, all of them, and tried to turn the other cheek?

What would our world look like if we responded by saying, “I don’t understand that. Can you talk to me about it?” How about asking, “How can I help you rather than fighting to keep more for myself?” Or when something hurtful is said about us, we speak directly to the offender and explain why that bothered us? What if, instead of buying more guns, we work together to end violence for everyone? It’s time to stop trying to take an eye for an eye and instead focus on how we can work together to care for one another. It’s time to turn our attention, not to getting even, but to loving more, doing more, and helping more.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tyler Speegle, “Five Signs You’re Reading the Bible All Wrong.” Relevant Magazine, web version (click hereto read the full article).