The ‘Eye for an Eye’ Examination (Matthew 5:38-42) by Bro. Glen Guevara

Vengeance is a prevalent theme in the popular media nowadays. Whether sa mga movies or songs and even TV shows, nagkalat ang tema at konsepto ng Paghihiganti. And it has so many faces and there are those who seek to take revenge for their own misfortune. And there are those who avenge the death of a wife, a family, a family member or even a dog. Either way, this concept of taking personal revenge is so loved and embraced to the point that even the modern heroes are called The Avengers. So some say, even the Bible accepts this concept. And they quote verses like Matthew 5 38 “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” to defend their wild idea. But is that verse really a warrant for personal vengeance? That if we want to know, then we must examine that verse, we must conduct an eye for an eye examination. Our text for this morning is Matthew chapter 5 verses 38 to 42. “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 the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. Thanks be to God for the reading of His word.

Now we are currently in the fifth chapter of our study of the Gospel of Matthew. And here, the Apostle Matthew continues to persuade his readers that Jesus of Nazareth is their long-awaited King and Messiah who will save His people from their sins. In chapters 5 to 7, Matthew presents the King’s public declaration, also known as The Sermon on the Mount, where King Jesus taught His disciples what is the identity of His kingdom subjects. And consequently how they must live in the light of that identity. Dumaan na tayo sa opening statements ng ating Panginoon, which are famously called the Beatitudes. And in verses 17 to 20, Jesus declared that He came not to abolish the law or the prophets but to fulfill them. Now according to one commentary that means and I quote, “Jesus does not alter, replace or nullify the former commands. Rather He established their true intent and purpose in His teaching and accomplishes them in His obedient life.” And since Christ is the lawful filler, it also means na Siya din ang standard ng true essence of the law and His interpretation of it clarifies the Divine intentions and meaning of the Old Testament law. We need to also see na nung mga panahon ni Hesus, maraming false interpretations and misapplications ng Old Testaments na itinuro ng mga Pharisees and other religious groups. Kaya naman in verses 21 to 48, the Lord confronted these misinterpretations and misapplications by presenting six antithesis. Itong mga antithesis na ito ay not contradicting the Old Testament laws or even the moral laws. Instead, these are contradicting the popular yet incorrect understanding and false obligations of the law. Makikita natin na itong anim na ito ay by noticing the specific format na ginamit ng ating Panginoon. First, He used the repeated phrases ‘you’ve heard that it was said’ then after that, He will declare the law or the incorrect understanding of the law, and then it will be followed by another repeated phrase, ‘but I say to you’ and dun Niya i-u-unpack yung true meaning and correct application ng law. Kung nandito po kayo nung mga nakaraang sermons, nakita po natin yung pag-clarify ng Panginoon concerning their understanding of the law about murder, adultery, divorce, and last week, taking of oaths. The Lord showed us the true meaning and application of these laws. And that is to mortify our sinful anger, sexual lust, marital infidelity and lying.

And now we will proceed sa pang-limang antithesis. And it relates to the law of retaliation. In verses 38 to 39, it says 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 the one who is evil. So para makita natin bakit nais ituwid ng Panginoon ang understanding nila about this law, let us see first how they twisted this law for their evil desires. The law that says “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is from the Old Testament penal code.

Found in verses like Exodus 21 24, Leviticus 24 19 and Deuteronomy 19

21. It is also called the lex talionis which means the law of retaliation. Ito ay isang principle that states that the punishment should fit the crime. The punishment should fit the crime. Now it must be noted na hindi palaging literal ang application po nito, ng principle na ito. There are times na binabayaran ng katumbas na pera or na halaga or other commodities. Yung crime or laws na na-inflict ng offender. But the principle is the same. The punishment should fit the crime. For some people, the law, this particular law may sound harsh or brutal. But actually, God gave this law to His people so that justice might be maintained and at the same time excessive and inappropriate punishments might be avoided. You see, natural sa ‘tin pong mga tao na pag nasaktan tayo, o ang mga mahal natin sa buhay, gusto natin ng hustisya, justice. Ang kaso, dahil makasalanan tayo, madalas, sobra sobra yung parusa na gusto nating ipataw sa mga nagkasala sa atin. Now, isang example po niyan ay si Lamech sa Genesis 4 23. Ang sabi niya – “I have killed a man for wounding me a young man for striking me” Ah, pinagyayabang niya na pinatay nya daw yung tao na sumugat lang naman sa kanya. Sobra-sobra yung parusa niya ‘no.

Nilabag niya yung ‘an eye for an eye.’ Ang ginawa niya ay ‘a life for a wound.’ So sobra-sobra ang kaniyang hiningi na parusa ‘no. Yan ang tendency nating mga tao, labis labis ang gusto nating punishment for those who offend us. Kaya naman nagbigay ang Lord ng batas na kung ano lang ang nararapat na parusa, yun lang ang ibigay, walang labis, walang kulang. As one commentator said – The lex talionis was intended as an equaliser of justice. Another very important note about this law is this: hindi po ito binigay para mag-seek ng personal or individual vengeance. In the Old Testament, the ones who are imposing, the ones who are applying this law are the civil authorities. So kung dapat mang may bigyan ng parusa, hindi yung taong nagawan ng mali yung magpapataw noon kundi yung civil authorities ng bansa para masiguradong patas na nasusunod yung batas. Now hindi po licensed ang Lex Talionis para mag-seek ng personal vengeance apart from the judicial system of the nation. Actually, pinagbabawal po ng batas ng Israel na maghangad ng personal na retaliation. Gaya ng sinabi sa Leviticus 19 verse 18 you shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people but you shall love your neighbour as yourself I am the Lord. So even in the Old Testament, kung may hustisya na dapat makamit at may parusa na dapat ipataw, dapat itong ipaubaya sa civil authorities. While individually, hindi dapat naghahangad o nagp-plano ng personal na paghihiganti ang mga Israelita. Kaso, pagdating nung time ni Christ, iba na yung tinuturo nung mga Pharisees. They twisted the lex talionis and they used it as a license para mapagtakpan yung mga personal na paghihiganti nila. Hindi na sila dumadaan sa korte. Nilagay nila sa kamay nila yung batas. Kaya naman sabi ng Panginoon: “but I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil.” Now this must be understood in its context and in the light of other Bible verses. Elsewhere in the Bible, we are commanded to resist the devil and also to resist temptations that might cause us to sin. That is not the resistance that is being pointed out in verse 39. It also doesn’t mean that Jesus is teaching complete non-resistance where resistance of evil through armed forces, police, law courts and even self defense at times are totally prohibited.

Hindi po yan ang tinuturo dito ng Panginoon. So what does ‘do not resist the one who is evil’ in verse 39 means? In line of its context, it means that Christ’s disciples must not seek personal vengeance to the one who has done evil against them. Or as Romans 12 17 says ‘repay no one evil for evil’ They must become like their master as said in First Peter 2 23 when Christ was reviled he did not revile in return when he suffered he did not threaten but continued in trusting himself to him who judges justly. We must see brothers and sisters and friends, that seeking personal revenge is absolutely unChrist-like. We must acknowledge it as a sin and seek to mortify it and that leads us to our message this morning, Christ’s Kingdom Subjects Must Mortify The Sin Of Seeking Personal Vengeance. Ang mga tao na nasa ilalim ng kaharian ni Kristo ay dapat patayin ang kasalanan ng paghahangad ng personal na paghihiganti. But the question is how? Paano? How can we modify the sin of seeking personal vengeance? They said that if you want to mortify sin, a particular sin, you must also cultivate the opposite braces of that particular sin. And in the next verses, the Lord will give us four illustrations where we will see the opposite Graces that we must cultivate in order to kill our sin.

So the first two illustrations will show us that the sin of seeking personal retaliation is killed by Cultivating Self-Denial, and that is our first point. While the last two illustrations will will point out that it is mortified, the sin of uh seeking personal retaliation is mortified by Cultivating Kind Generosity, and that is our last point.

Let us consider the first one, Cultivating Self-Denial. The first two illustrations are seen in verses 39 to 40. Ang sabi dun, but if anyone slaps you in the right cheek, turn to him the other also and if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let them have let him have your cloak as well. Now just a disclaimer po for all these four illustrations: there is a danger kung ia- apply natin ito literally without considering its historical background.

That’s why kailangan po nating alamin, kailangan natin I-examine bakit ganito ang mga illustrations ng ating Panginoon? So according to the first illustration, we must turn the other cheek kung may sasampal man sa atin sa ating right cheek. What does that mean? Anong ibig sabihin dito ng ating Panginoon? Well since karamihan sa mga tao ay right- handed, karamihan po ba sa atin ay right-handed? To slap someone on the right cheek means to strike it with the back of the right hand. So it’s a backhanded slap. At sa mga Hudyo po, kapag binigyan ka nila ng back- handed slap, hindi lang yun meant to injure someone, but more than that, that is a gross insult. Through that backhanded slap, someone is saying that you are not even worthy of his open palm. Now, kung ikaw yung nakatanggap ng sampal na iyon, the initial reaction as a sinful man is to return that slap in a more painful and more insulting way. And if both parties are equally vengeful, then there will be an endless cycle of violence and insult. But the King, but the King Jesus commanded His subjects instead of returning the slap, turn the other cheek. Now, this does not mean we will not defend ourselves or we cannot flee when we are seriously assaulted. Instead, what the Lord is pointing out is this: when you are injured or insulted, do not seek personal revenge towards that person who sinned against you. Instead be willing to endure suffering and even persecution for the Name of Christ.

Now the second illustration says if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. Nung time nila, kapagka kinasuhan ang isang tao na may utang, maaaring naisin mo na, maaaring naisin nung nag-kaso na ipambayad mo na lang yung damit mo, okay. Nung time po nila, mahalaga yung damit at mataas po yung value ng damit kasi wala pa pong mass production noon. So ang mga typical Israelites po, mayroon lamang silang isa o dalawang set ng damit. So normally, meron silang tunic, yun yung kanilang inner garment at meron din silang robe, yung naman ang kanilang outer garment, yung robe or yung cloak, ang sabi dun sa verse. Now, meron pong batas ang Israel na pwede mong hingin na pambayad sa utang yung Tunis, yung inner garment pero hindi mo pwedeng hingin yung cloak, yung outer.

Dahil bukod sa maaaring yun na lang ang damit ng sinisingil mo, yun din ay blanket o kumot niya pagka-gabi. So kapag kinuha mo pa pati yung outer garment niya, wala siyang kumot pag gabi. So the point is this, legally speaking, your adversary might demand your tunic but not your cloak. Yun ang kanilang batas. Pwede mong i-demand yung inner garment, pero hindi yung outer garment. Pero ang sabi ng Panginoon, kahit yung cloak, ibigay mo. Kahit yung outer garment ibigay mo. Now again, the Lord is not commanding us to give away all our clothes and find out how to survive the night cold and naked. No. The point is this: instead of retaliating to the one who sues you, be willing to give more than what the law requires. Be willing to give what the law requires. Ano ang pino-point out ng Panginoon dito using these two illustrations? Both illustrations creates a perfect opportunity to personally retaliate, okay.

Dun sa parehas na sitwasyon na yon, pwede mong i-seek ang personal retaliation mo. But both at the same scenario, the Lord instructs His disciples not just not to retaliate, but to be willing to endure injury and insult, and be willing to give more than what is required. So why go beyond? Bakit tayo kino-command or ini-instruct ng Panginoon to go beyond? Because that willingness will demonstrate that you are not just outwardly non-retaliating; but also deep in your heart you have no grudge for that person at all that you are willing to even help him.

Now what does it require to have that kind of heart towards your offenders? What does it require? Ano ang nire-require sa atin nito? Lalo na kung ang gumagawa sa iyo nito ay yung offenders mo? And it requires self-denial, self-denial. Now you may say, anong connection ng personal vengeance at self-denial? Pag ang isang tao ay sobrang vengeful, sobrang unforgiving and always seeking to get even, ano ang pinakamahalaga sa taong iyon? Or should we say sino ang pinakamahalaga sa taong iyon? When he’s always seeking revenge, ang pinakamahalaga sa kaniya ang kaniyang sarili. Self vengeful individuals are fundamentally idolaters, they are worshipers of themselves they think of themselves too highly. Kay kapag nabangga mo o nasagi mo lang ng konti eh hindi sila papayag ng walang ganti. Ganun kataas ang tingin nila sa kanilang sarili. And if you want to kill our vengeful hearts, then we must kill the root. We must kill it to the root, which that root is selfishness.

Now the source for personal vengeance is mortified when the opposite of selfishness, which is self-denial is cultivated. But you see brothers and sisters and friends, we are sinfully inclined, sinfully inclined to love ourselves. That’s the problem. Cultivating self-denial, let alone mortifying vengefulness is impossible for a sinful and selfish sinner like you and me. We need a Savior, we need a Savior who will save us from ourselves. Thanks be to God, thanks be to God He sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Our God and King humbled Himself by being born in the likeness of men. He lived a perfect sinless life without any sinful vengeance and He willingly gave Himself to die on the cross in our place and for our sins. At nung dumating na yung oras kung saan malapit na Siyang ipako sa krus, this King who told us not to retaliate, this King who taught us to turn the other cheek was repeatedly slapped, struck and spat upon by the Roman soldiers. But the scripture says He did not retaliate. He did not seek personal revenge. He even gave His cheeks to the one who strikes and to those who pull out the beard, according to Isaiah. All of these sufferings, His death on the cross, His resurrection.

Lahat nang iyan ay in-accomplish ng ating Panginoon so that His people, His church might be saved from their sins, might be saved from worshiping themselves that they might be saved from seeking personal vengeance and also that we might be enabled by the grace of our Lord to deny ourselves and follow His example. And that is the first challenge for us brethren, follow Christ’s perfect example of self-denial follow Christ’s perfect example of self-denial.

Now for those who are not yet in Christ, those who are not yet saved from their sins, kaibigan, imposible na i-deny mo ang sarili mo kung hindi ka pa ligtas sa mga kasalanan mo. Ang isang dulot ng kasalanan ay pagiging makasarili. At ang dulot ng pagiging makasarili ay paghihiganti. Makakatakas ka lamang iyan, kaibigan, kung magsisisi ka sa iyong mga kasalanan at kung magtitiwala ka kay Hesus na tanging makapagliligtas sa iyo mula sa mga kasalanan mo. Pero sa aking mga kapatid sa Panginoon, brothers and sisters, the Lord has given us grace and power to deny ourselves. And even the perfect example to follow.

Tignan muli natin yung sabi sa First Peter 2 21 to 24. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. Now someone may think paano naman ang hustisya kung parati na lang ako magpapaubaya, paano naman ang justice kung hindi ako gaganti? Kapatid, kung walang Diyos na huhusga sa lahat, talagang walang hustisya. Pero kung may Diyos na banal at alam ng lahat ng motibo ng bawat tao, then for sure, maipapataw ang perpektong hustisya either sa krus ng ating Panginoong Hesus o di kaya naman para sa mga hindi nagtitiwala kay Kristo, ipapataw ang parusa sa iyo mismo sa impiyerno. Kaya magsisi ka at magtiwala ka na kay Hesus sa lalong madaling panahon.

To my brothers and sisters, are there anyone among us today who are still selfish and vengeful? Meron ba sa ating mapaghiganti at makasarili pa rin ang puso? You may say, hindi naman ako ganun, hindi naman ako nananakit ng iba dahil naghihiganti ako. Pero alam niyo mga kapatid, mula sa simple na pagtatampo, simple na silent treatment hanggang sa mga paninirang-puri, o lalo na sa mga malicious intentions na motivated lahat ng paghihiganti. Lahat ng kapangitan na iyan at iba’t- ibang mukha ng paghihiganti ay kitang-kita ng Panginoon natin. Repent now brethren. Repent now if you spot any hint of vengefulness in your heart. Confess your sins to the Lord and ask Him to give you the strength that you need to deny yourself and follow His example.

Now we mortify sin, we mortify the sin of seeking personal revenge by cultivating self-denial and also as our point number two, by Cultivating Kind Generosity. Now the last two illustrations are found in verses 41 and 42. And if anyone forces you to go one mile go with him two miles, give to the one who begs from you and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. Nung time po na ito, meron Roman law that let soldiers force any civilian to carry their military luggage for one Roman mile. One Roman mile po is equal to 1.4 kilometres on foot. Now mahirap po ito, depende pa kung gaano kabigat yung pinadala sa iyo ‘no. Ang mas mahirap pa po dito, mga foreign oppressors po nila yung mga Romano, Romans. Now, if you think of it, parang ganito po yan, pinabitbit sa iyo, pinadala sa iyo yung gamit. Gamit ng mga kalaban mo, pinadala iyon sa iyo at yun yung mga gamit na gagamitin nila para i-oppress ka. So again, hindi lang basta physical suffering yung makikita natin dito. Pero meron ding element ng insult, ng pag-mamaliit, okay. Pero ang instruction ng Lord, kung mangyari man iyon, na pwersahin ka na magtrabaho ng kalaban mo, do not resist. DO not be vengeful. But seek to be helpful, seek to be helpful. How? By going an extra mile, now extra mile is a concept na pinapakita, it’s going above and beyond what is expected or required. And usually this is done out of kindness, okay. And that is the point of the third illustration, kindness, right. You are giving extra mile because of your kindness even to your oppressors, even to your enemies, okay. At iyon dapat ang heart natin towards those who who even sinned against us. That’s the point of the third illustration.

While the last illustration in verse 42 points out that instead of retaliating against people who might annoy us by continuously begging and borrowing without paying their debt. We must have a posture of generosity towards them. Of course this does not mean tolerating the ones who are lazy and or deceitful. Now it must be read still in its context of non-retaliation. But the point here is this, do not withhold the help that you can give. If you are withholding it out of revenge to the one who annoys you. Yung laging humihiram, laging humihingi, okay. Di ba? It’s annoying but the Lord says be generous towards that person. Have the heart of generosity towards that person. Now, so what are the graces that Jesus is pointing out in the last two illustrations? Instead of being vengeful, una towards your enemies, sabi niya kanina mga Romans, the oppressors, or the people who makes your life uncomfortable. Instead of being vengeful and being retaliating towards them, be kind and generous to them. Be kind and generous to them. Now this is another way on how we can modify personal retaliation by cultivating kind generosity, kind generosity.

Kindness and generosity are fruits of the Holy spirit’s work of sanctification in a Christian’s life. And sanctification is only possible because of the justification that was accomplished by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who Himself is the perfect example of kindness and generosity. Now to my Christian brethren, before, we were called enemies of God. But because of God’s loving kindness through our Lord Jesus Christ, we have been reconciled to our God. At hindi lang iyon.. out of His gracious and generous heart, He showered to us every spiritual blessing in our Lord Jesus Christ. Brothers and sisters, we have been forgiven, justified, adopted. We are being sanctified, and soon we will be glorified. We don’t deserve the least of His blessings but He lavished His mercy, His grace, His love to us. All because of the perfect work of our perfect Savior Jesus Christ who gave the perfect example of kindness and generosity. Remember brethren how the Lord has been kind to you. Do you still remember that day na naging mabuti sa iyo ang Panginoon at binuksan Niya ang mga mata mo para ikaw ay magtiwala sa Kanya. That kindness led you to repentance. And forget not how He has been generous to you brothers and sisters. And may you be filled with joy and follow His perfect example of kindness and generosity. This is the challenge brethren – Follow Christ’s Perfect Example Of Kind Generosity. Now the problem enters in when we think ah, ‘di naman niya deserve ang kindness and generosity ko. Ang deserve niya yung vengeance ko. Ang deserve niya yung galit ko, yung wrath ko. When we think like that, we forget the gospel, brothers and sisters. We forget the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We think as if na-receive natin yung kindness at generosity ng Diyos dahil deserve natin iyon.

Maling pag-iisip yan kapatid. If you think that way, repent now brother, repent now sister. And remember your kind and generous Savior who love you even though you don’t deserve it. Then seek to express kindness and generosity, not because someone deserves it, but because you receive it. And to our guests who are not yet saved, know that our King Jesus is kind and generous. He is giving you another opportunity to today to repent of your sins and believe in Him and consequently receive grace upon grace upon grace even though what you deserve is His righteous judgment. Repent! Friend, mag-repent ka na ngayon. If you are not yet in Christ, repent because Christ will not reject you if you will come to Him. But to my brethren in Christ, may we seek to mortify personal retaliation by cultivating kind generosity like our Savior. Now, as a conclusion, the sin of seeking personal vengeance has no place in the Kingdom of Christ. It is out of place mga kapatid.

Walang lugar ang paghahangad ng personal na paghihiganti sa Kaharian ni Kristo. Now it must be mortified by following our King’s perfect examples of self-denial and kind generosity.

Let us pray. Our Father in heaven, Lord we, we don’t deserve oh God even to speak Your Name. Lord, because of our sins, Lord what we deserve oh God Is Your righteous judgment, Your righteous punishment. But oh God, we thank You that because of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Lord, You have given us this great opportunity for those of your people today. Binigyan Niyo po kami Panginoon ng napakagandang pribilehiyo na lumapit sa Inyo, Panginoon. And Lord, may we never forget Your kindness. May we never forget Your generosity, oh God.

Dalangin ko po Panginoon na makita talaga sa buhay namin ang mga bagay na narinig namin ngayong umaga. At Lord, tulungan Niyo po ang bawa’t isa na nahihirapan pagdating sa paghihiganti. Tulungan Niyo po Panginoon na ma-mortify ang kasalanan na ito. And we also pray Lord for those who are not yet in Christ today, that they would come to the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. That they might receive grace and mercy and in Jesus’ Name, this we pray, amen.

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