LEV. 19:1-2, 17-18, 1 COR. 3:16-23, MATTHEW 5:38-48
“SO BE PERFECT, JUST AS YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER IS PERFECT." MT 5:48
“An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” was the ancient law of retaliation, established in an attempt to enact justice among the people of ancient Israel. Replacing the barbaric tribal tradition of brutal revenge, this law enforced a sense of balance and fairness in retaliation, replacing revenge with penalty – the law was a commitment to justice.
Jesus’s code of justice is even more dynamic - “Love your neighbor as yourself”. This is not a new teaching - we find it in the 1st Reading from Leviticus. However, what makes Jesus’ teaching revolutionary is the fact that he extends it from one’s family and friends to include strangers and enemies as well. What is great about loving your own? Even the Gentiles do that! It is when you love those who wish you the worst that you are set apart.
Jesus abolishes punishing retaliation replacing it with a response of love. And so, if someone strikes you on one cheek, willingly offer the other; if someone makes you walk one mile, willingly walk two; if someone borrows your tunic, willingly offer him your cloak as well. It is not a meek submission, rather, it is a courageous act of humility and love. This is perfection! And so the key final verse – be perfect like your heavenly father is perfect!
Just as God provides for the good things ("rain", etc.) for the just and the unjust, so must God's followers must treat all – good and evil - with consistent love (5:45). Love begets Love; and Love is Perfection.
What is your law of retaliation? Does it speak of love? Remember, “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind!” (Mahatma Gandhi)