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No, You Do Not Have to Hit Back!

By the Rev. Darren Miner

Gospel Reading

The Gospel reading today is from the Sermon on the Mount. Last week, we heard the first four of the six so-called “Antitheses.” Today, we hear the last two. As you may recall, the Antitheses are not really antitheses. Jesus is not replacing the commandments of the Law. Instead, he is protecting them, by building a fence around the Torah, so that his disciples do not even come close to breaking any of its commandments.

Sermon On The Mount
with the Healing of the Leper
Cosimo Rosselli, 1481

Jesus starts out by speaking about the law of retaliation, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” No law has been so misinterpreted by so many for so long! The original purpose was not to require retaliation, but to limit it. In the bad old days before this law, if someone stole a man’s sheep, he might kill the thief. And while he was at it, he might kill the thief’s wife, parents, and baby children—just to get the point across that he is not to be messed with. The extended family of the slaughtered might then decide to declare war on the extended family of the man who killed their kin. And the violence only escalates. The purpose of the law of retaliation was to prevent just such an escalation.


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