“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had something to say about that maxim, “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. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.” (Matt 5:38-42)
You might well say — if that is the Gospel, we are not Christian, or in the words of G. K. Chesterton, “the Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.”
Many of us, bishops, priests and laity have been guilty of preaching, teaching and reading the Gospel selectively…sometimes glossing over the uncomfortable portions like the quoted passage from Matthew in which Jesus clearly calls his disciples to go beyond the Law of Reciprocity, treat others well so they will treat you well, and beyond the Talion Law of tit-for-tat.
Are we then to stand aside and let evil run rampant? Of course not. But, our response must be measured, just and tempered with mercy, not instantaneous, massive retaliation intended to destroy.
A measured response may include the limited use of force but always in conjunction with diplomacy and other efforts. With regard to the use of force against ISIS in Iraq, Pope Francis cautioned, “In reaffirming that it is licit, while always respecting international law, to stop an unjust aggressor, I wish to reiterate that the problem cannot be resolved solely through a military response.”
Let us pray for people around the world — including our enemies and especially for our leaders– that God our Heavenly Father will touch our hearts and minds so that someday we can know peace in the world.
Image credit: “Pantokrator” by Nick Thompson on Flickr