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Non-retaliation

Cross thoughts: Cristian ideas seen in Sudanese every day life.

Jesus changes the Old Testament form

of “limited retaliation” to the

New Testament Christian standard of

“total non-retaliation”, see Matthew 5:38-41.


This is a tough challenge faced by Christians in areas where armies are mobilising and where tribal strife often

boils over into fighting.


The Old Testament civil law spoke of “an eye for an eye”, Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21; amid other equal responses. Punishment by the State should be made to fit the crime. The verses around show that restitution should be given. Notice that it is “restitution given” by the wrongdoer, ordered by the state, and it is not “revenge taken” by the person individually wronged.


Mercy was also urged by the OT law. An item taken as pledge for a loan is to be returned in a matter of life or death for the borrower, Exodus 22:26-27. The link is clearly the explanation for Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:40 and 42.


The key words in the New Testament are these: “You have heard that it was said ……but I (Jesus) tell you ….” Matthew 5:38-39. See also verses 21, 22, 27, 28, 31, 32, 33, 34.


Jesus came to fulfil the OT law, Matthew 5:17. To fulfil means to bring about the completion of something. It also means to satisfy the requirements of something. Our Lord Jesus fully met everything the OT law demanded, for everybody – not just for himself. In fact he owed the law nothing, but voluntarily took our debt.


Now Christians should not retaliate when oppressed, vs39. Rather we should positively get the upper hand by reacting in a counter-cultural distinctly Christian way.


“Turn the other cheek”, “go beyond what is demanded”, “love and pray for your enemies”, “be perfect Christians”, Matthew 5:38-6:1. Now, that is some challenge!


Retribution is for the law courts to decide upon in sentencing a convicted offender. Retaliation is for non-believers. Reacting Christianly is the only way we followers of Jesus show clear witness for the change Jesus has brought to our lives. This alone is the way of Spirit-filled living under the cross of Christ.


To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered he made no threats.

Instead he entrusted himself to him who judges justly”. 1 Peter 2:21-23.


God will justly judge when it really matters, which is not in this temporary and passing world. Let those who love this world fight for it. We don’t need to! Wait for the next.


March 2012.

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