Jesus' ethic for dealing with being hurt

Posted Jul 3, 2020

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Daily Scripture

Matthew 5:38-42

38 “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth [Exodus 21:24; 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.

Reflection Questions

When Jesus lived there, Palestine was an occupied land. It seethed with hatred of Roman occupiers (and even of Hebrews with different views or status). Roman soldiers could legally slap you, take your shirt or force you to carry a load. They were the “enemy.” Jesus called his followers to act graciously toward even those enemies. “No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.” (Matthew 5:42, The Message)

  • Jesus called his followers to live in bigger ways than they had dreamed of, to love their enemies and pray for those who harassed them. (He did that for Roman soldiers executing him—cf. Luke 23:33-34.) What ways of reacting to others might our culture teach us until we realize that Jesus’ teaching calls us beyond those patterns? When you feel like “getting even,” how can you become more like Jesus instead?
  • On Monday we read that Jesus said, “I haven’t come to do away with [the Law and the Prophets] but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). Yet here he set aside the law of proportional revenge (Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20 and Deuteronomy 19:21). But he did that to fulfil a greater law: “You must love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). He called that one of the greatest laws (cf. Matthew 22:37-39) because he knew hatred or revenge just beget more of the same. How easy or hard do you find it to adopt Jesus' priorities when someone has hurt you?


Lord Jesus, teach me how to seek forgiveness from others, how to offer it even to enemies—and how to do both in healthy ways that heal, rather than suppressing, my pain and hurt. Amen.

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Ginger Rothhaas

Ginger Rothhaas

Ginger is the creator of and is a graduate of Saint Paul School of Theology. She is currently teaching “Truth to Trust: Instructions from the Psalms” for Resurrection’s Women’s Ministry. She serves as a Care Minister at Resurrection Downtown and co-hosted the What Matters? podcast. She loves writing, teaching, conversations over coffee, and time with her husband and two children.

In seminary, I toured a local mosque while studying Islam. A member of the mosque said to me, “If I wasn’t born into Islam, I would have been a Christian.” When I asked him why, he said “Because Jesus teaches peace, you know, turn the other cheek rather than the eye for the eye stuff. That really sums up God to me."

At the time of this tour, I was new to studying Islam and held a bias that Muslims were more of an eye-for-an-eye type of people based on terrorist news stories. This man’s comments seemed inconsistent with what I thought Islam taught.

As I learned more in that class, I realized the Quran is a sacred text teaching peace too. In fact, it is a prophetic call to behave better than people were behaving 600 years after the life of Jesus. The angel Gabriel spoke to Muhammad, instructing him to teach the ethics of Jesus again because people had already forgotten and drifted away.

In the sacred texts of most religions, through archetypes, stories, parables, wisdom, and epic tales, humans are taught how to behave in peaceful ways. In our current world, billions of people are reading these texts, but many are not behaving in a manner that contributes to peace for all.

Jesus teaches “Love your neighbor as yourself” as a recipe for peace. Peace comes when we value the life of another as much as we value our own life, understand the suffering of others as much as we notice our own suffering, and work to provide the best for others just as we work to provide the best for ourselves. I think Jesus was teaching us that the path to inner peace and world peace is found in loving others.

2020 has offered many opportunities to see things differently than we did before. Might this be another opportunity in human history to raise our consciousness and behave in a way that moves us further towards peace and love?

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