You have heard that it was said: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you this: do not oppose evil with evil; if someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn and offer the other. If someone sues you in court for your shirt, give him your coat as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give when asked, and do not turn your back on anyone who wants to borrow from you.
In today’s Gospel, Matthew built a contrast between the old law—which only regulated one’s outer actions and the new law—which demands a higher standard of morality. According to Matthew, Jesus has now put more constraints on one’s heart and mind than the law put on one’s behavior (Socio-rhetorical interpretation of Matthew). The Jewish teachers considered one’s neighbors as members of family, community, country, nation and religion. Jesus teaches that kindness should extend to all.
While many render evil for evil, an eye for an eye (oculum pro oculo), it is not Jesus’ way. Even though the Old Law stipulates that the punishment should not exceed the injury done, Jesus, however, prohibits even this proportionate retaliation. Why is that? If God let the sun shine on both the just and unjust, do we treat others selectively? The lex talionis is not for his followers, because they are not ferocious beasts whose actions are regulated by the law of the jungle, but are translators of God’s love (to paraphrase Benedict XV1’s Holy Thursday Message to Priests, 2012). Jesus’ followers’ love is inclusive, not selective. “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” (Mahatma Gandhi)
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