Jesus said: You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. Mathew 5, 38 + 39
Not revenge, but an overall limitation of the damage is what is really needed! Our life will never be without conflicts. Quarrels will always be possible. There will always be arguments. God has provided through Moses the following rules and principles in the event of a dispute: "take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise” (Exodus 21, 23 - 25). This avoids revenge and excessive retaliation. A fair compensation of damages was supposed to determine the ethics in the everyday life. God doesn't want bloodthirsty avengers like Lamech. Lamech was the son of the brother murderer Cain. He boasted of his brutality. He killed a man who had wounded him. He killed a young man who had bruised him (Genesis 4:23).
God shows a new way. Jesus took this new path with his disciples. The lust for retribution should no longer determine the life of his disciples, but grace and mercy also towards the enemies. Jesus exemplified this. When the high priest condemned him, his tormentors spit in his face and beat him with their fists (Mt. 26, 67). Today we would call this torture. On the cross he asks God, his heavenly father: “Father, please forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Wrong remains wrong. Evil remains evil. But dealing with injustice and evil should not be determined by revenge and retaliation. Of course this can be difficult as one could see with the Apostle Paul. When he is interrogated before the high council, the high priest Ananias had him slapped in the face. Back then it was a clear violation of the law. Paul opposes it! But then Paul insults the chief theologian with the words "You whitewashed wall!" When he learns who he had insulted, he apologizes. He recalls: ‘Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people’” (Acts 23:1 f).
Paul knows from his own experience that he cannot meet the divine standards. And yet he encourages other Christians: If someone wrong you, never pay back with the same coin. Never repay injustice with new injustice. As far as it is possible and depends on you, live in peace with all people (Romans 12, 17 + 18).
Then he takes it to the extreme: "Do not let evil overcome you, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21). Overcome evil with good? Is that possible?
Graffiti artist Bansky painted that on a wall. Masterful, I think. You can find this graffiti in the Internet. Take a look at the 2011 annual watchword "Don't let evil overcome you, but overcome evil with good."
The picture shows a young man who looks like he could fight in a street battle. A Baseball Cap on his head. Face partially masked. His view straight towards the potential enemy! The whole body is tense. He pulls out to throw. But there is no stone in his hand, no Molotov cocktail. He throws a bouquet of flowers!
The picture looks grotesque. Somehow it doesn´t fit together! A hooded street fighter throws a bouquet of flowers towards his opponents. That could possibly lead to the end of the argument! A flying bouquet of flowers would be something like a dove of peace.
There still seems a long way to go before world politicians turn their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks (Isaiah 2: 4). But we Christians can already “fight” in our families, between neighbors, at work to ensure that disputes do not escalate. We can work to ensure that we actively overcome injustice. That there is no spiral of hate and retribution. A small bouquet of flowers could be a symbolic dove of peace. It could signal: hey man, let´s sit down and talk to each other again. We apologize for our injustice. We are on a new path.
There are too many "Lamechs" and too few who have the courage to walk a different path. The Lord Jesus Christ told us how to do it. Paul tried. We could try it too!