Has anyone ever hit you, and you wanted to turn around and slug them back? Has anyone ever stolen from you, and you think you would like to steal from them in return? Has someone spread false rumors about you, and you just wanted to tell lies about the offending person?
If you ever gave in to those urges, you might justify it by lex talionis, a law of equal and direct retribution, or as the Hebrew scriptures say, “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Exodus 21:24). The problem is, your justification may not be correct. This form of reciprocal justice was for the courts to decide, not for individual persons. In fact, personal retribution was forbidden by the Jewish Law: “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen. You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus challenges us to go beyond the limits of “logical justice” enshrined in the lex talionis of the ancient Near East. He asks us to place mercy above every other consideration. If a person strikes you on the right cheek, you are to offer him the left cheek. If someone steals a shirt from you, you are to offer him your coat as well. If someone asks for a little help, go the extra mile and offer them a lot of help. Even St. Paul encourages us to be patient, kind, loving, and truthful as we rely on the power of God (2 Corinthians 6:4-7).
Let’s face it: This is no easy task. But Jesus knows how challenging his teaching is. He knows we are bound to fail at times. We should hold ourselves to a high standard, but we should also trust that he will never judge us harshly. The key is to keep trying. Take small steps toward pardoning past hurts and wrongs. Do your best to be generous and kind to your neighbors. Over time, the Holy Spirit will move you farther and farther along, until you are ready to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile in a spirit of true love and generosity.
“Heavenly Father, I thank you that your grace and your mercies are new each day. I marvel at your mercy and generosity. Come, Father, and give me a heart of mercy and generosity!”
Psalm 98:1-4; 2 Corinthians 6:1-10
Thursday, June 21, 2007
I've been thinking about grudges and forgiveness a lot lately. Actually I think about that quite often -- both from the standpoint of me forgiving someone and of someone forgiving me. While at godmother class a few weeks ago, I picked up the magazine "The Word Among Us" which has daily devotionals. This one was from a few days ago. I hope you like it.