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Retaliatory-Free Living

Updated on June 15, 2020

”It is possible to continue turning the other cheek when one has stopped counting.” ~ Matshona Dhliwayo

Today’s Readings (1 Kings 21:1-16 & Matthew 5:38-42) illustrate the stark contrast between Old Testament justice and New Testament justice, allowing each one of us to reflect upon where we stand in matters pertaining to vengeance, retaliation and the deadly run if wrath.

In today’s story from the 1st Book of Kings (21:1-16) we look in on a business proposal of sorts, wherein Ahab seeks to acquire Naboth’s vineyard, offering him a comparable vineyard or fair market value in return .Naboth has no intention of selling his vineyard however, causing Ahab to walk away from the failed transaction rather miffed. For Naboth, it was a matter of ancestral heritage as it was for many if not all land owners during those times. Adding fuel to the fire is Ahab’s wife Jezebel, perhaps the wildest and most treacherous woman of the Bible. After a sarcastic attempt at emasculating Ahab, she stages a (very) hostile takeover of the project, essentially framing Naboth by way of a false accusation. “Naboth has cursed God and king” was her brief but deadly charge. Naboth is promptly stoned, leading Ahab and Jezebel to brazenly and swiftly take possession of the vineyard, proving yet again that “hell hath no fury as that of a woman scorned.”

Enter the Son of Man in an effort to turn down the temperature just a bit.

“You have heard that it was said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.“ This was Jesus’ radical response to the seemingly ubiquitous hatred that was choking the world around him.

In offering this message of peace, a gift Jesus so freely gave to those who sought it; peace of mind, body and spirit, a peace he so desires each of us to have, the Prince of Peace himself is essentially telling his disciples “Look, we can’t go back to the way things were.” Jesus’ message is rooted in the very simple idea that there is something better ~ far greater ~ than endless battles, confrontations and wars that are perpetually rooted in selfishness, ego and the hollow lust for revenge.

This is not to say of course that we are not to defend ourselves against someone who is trying to harm us, not is it to say that we should cower or remain silent in the face of anyone who seeks to blaspheme or speak in contradiction to God’s truth, the latter of which we are by all means called to defend vehemently. Today’s lesson is about the ever-present temptation to retaliate. This whole “you put one of ours in the hospital, we’ll put two of yours in the morgue“ mentality they is so prevalent in our politics, our workplaces and the silver screen among other places.

Rinsing ourselves of this very human weakness certainly isn’t easy, but it’s all part of our pursuit of a life lived in the Spirit, not one rooted in the fallen, sin-riddled secular world in which we are asked to gracefully navigate. Paul reminds us to pursue a life rooted in self-control (2 Timothy 1:1-3, 6-12) a much coveted virtue in a world soaked in “Twitter-wars,” trash talk and braggadocio. The Book of Proverbs tells us that “a man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” (25:28).

Seek this gift of the Spirit with great fervor an disciple and it shall be yours, for self-control is a cornerstone trait of all those who possess the peace that Jesus desires for all of us.

“Father, I come to you today in need of self-control and a desire to rid myself of the temptation of retaliation. I come in need of your grace and power. Holy Spirit, present yourself in my life. Where there are temptations help me to deliberately walk away from them. Where there are obstacles before me, may your light shine a way through. Lord, I ask for your strength and love to guide me so that I might live a simple, holy and peace-filled life.” ~ Amen


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