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Jan 06, 2013 | Joshua Claycamp

Matthew 5:38-42 Turning the Other Cheek

The Christian should never retaliate to injustices inflicted upon Him, but should always leave vengeance in the hands of God. But how does one realistically do this? Jesus teaches that the waters of a believer's soul should run deep with other concerns besides personal justice.

Where is this phrase "Eye for Eye" found?

“Eye for Eye” is mentioned in three different places within the Old Testament.

Exodus 21:24 – mentions Judges

Leviticus 24:20 – mentions congregation

Deuteronomy 19:21 – mentions priests and judges

I want to draw your attention to something. All of these passages teach the need for justice, but they all place the determination and execution of justice within the framework of the community. Always.

  1. (Exodus) Eye for Eye did not require an exact restitution. It could be satisfied monetarily.
  2. (Leviticus) It was always to be done as a function of the community with duly appointed judges.
  3. (Deuteronomy) Required at a minimum two witnesses with a strong indication that three witnesses were better. Diminished the possibility of collusion. – Deuteronomy
  4. It established the restraints of retribution, insisting on the truth that the evil must be punished but intending to restrain and fix the limits of justice. Its purpose was not to allow the pursuit of justice to go too far and become excessive.

The Pharisees were not teaching “Eye for Eye.” They were not teaching restraint. They were teaching “An Eye for an Eye.”  They were teaching retaliation, and the pursuit of vengeance.


What’s wrong with this? The simple truth is that it always goes too far. Can I share with you one observation that I’ve made over the years? I’ve never seen nor heard of a man being murdered by another man… that he had murdered first. Have you? 

So what is at the heart of vengeance? What’s wrong with this?


Ezekiel 25:15 – “Malice of soul.” We have hearts that are totally consumed with ourselves; they have become very small and very anemic thinking of nothing but self with no room for God and no room for faith, no room for trust, and no room for dependence upon our Father.

Illustration: Just like the fake river and waterfall, people often have no depth to their soul. They are often very shallow. And when a river runs shallow, it crashes over every rock and protrusion along the stream bed, casting up the foam and whitewater of the river’s furious running.


“Do not resist the one who is evil…”

“Tunic,” – the shirt, the basic item of clothing worn. Cloak was the coat that you needed to keep warm at night.

As Christians we must refuse to react and retaliate, preferring to absorb the blow of hatred, bearing the impact of violence and arresting the spiral of violence from continuing.

As the people of God who say that we have faith in Him, who say that we trust in Him, our waters must run deep enough not cast up the foam of every injury and injustice that others might inflict upon us.

Spurgeon: “As Christians we must be the anvil upon which the wicked men of this world swing their hammers of violence and vengeance.”

Is Jesus saying that we should refuse to retaliate, refuse to concern ourselves with justice and allow evil to be confronted by nothing more than our passive non-response? There are many who suggest this, but Jesus doesn’t teach this type of irresponsibility.


See yourself as being responsible for the welfare of everyone within the community.

Job is a classic example of someone who looked after his community.


1 Peter 2:20-23. Jesus did not retaliate but trusted in God. Yet his life was also given for the blessing and salvation of the many.

Martin Luther King Jr. “I’ve been to the Mountain Top” Speech.

Now, it doesn't matter, now. It really doesn't matter what happens now. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us. The pilot said over the public address system, "We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong with on the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we've had the plane protected and guarded all night."

And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop.

And I don't mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

Series Information

The Gospel of Matthew is a story about a once and coming King. Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of David, the long awaited for Messiah. He has come once, and Matthew tells the story of His arrival, ministry, sacrificial atoning work on the cross, and His promise to return soon.

Other sermons in the series