Retaliation is about getting back at someone because they have hurt you. In the Jewish Law, in order to keep law and order between the families and tribes, limits were set for retaliation. Exodus 21:23-25, God instructs His people, “If there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” The point was God was teaching the concept of justice, not to be too harsh but to allow for our desire for fairness. He was protecting us from the way human anger naturally devolves into “the Chicago Way” -- “They pull a knife, you pull a gun. They sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of theirs to the morgue.” (The Untouchables)
God also urge His people to take into account intent in earlier verses 12-14, “Anyone who strikes a person with a fatal blow is to be put to death. However, if it is not done intentionally, but God lets it happen, they are to flee to a place I will designate. But if anyone schemes and kills someone deliberately, that person is to be taken from my altar and put to death.”
However even this is not enough for Jesus who is God’s expression of perfect love. Jesus taught retaliation was not an option in His kingdom. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.” (Matthew 5:38-40)
The question then becomes—do I become a doormat? Do I allow people to hurt me and say nothing? Do we allow evil to run unchecked?
The answer: choose to confront, not retaliate. We confront with intent to restore the relationship, to make peace. We enforce personal boundaries with kindness. We respectfully express our point of view. We say no and add thank you. We rebuke someone’s dangerous or hurtful behavior with empathy and tenderness. We confront lovingly and directly, face to face.
Jesus demonstrates confrontation with evil (Mark 1:23-26), with religious hypocrites (Matthew 23:13-35), with His own disciples (Mark 8:33), with personal sin John 8:11). He did not shy away from confrontation, but also did not retaliate (Matthew 26:52-53, Luke 23:34).
|Like spring flowers,|
relationships need tenderness
to bloom and grow
Although this is the more difficult path, it is the only way for relationships to grow and stay healthy. Retaliation kills relationships. Lack of confrontation allows us to stay hurt which will eventually kill the relationship as well.
We must accept that sometimes our confrontation will not produce the results we desire. We can choose to confront, but others too have free choice and may not react as we hope even when we have been kind, respectful, and loving. Sometimes relationships can be restored but not always. We must put our trust in Jesus always who promised, “Blessed (enjoying enviable happiness, spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the makers and maintainers of peace, for they shall be called the daughters of God!” (Matthew 5:9, AMP)
Jesus, it is easy to type but so difficult to do in the moment. Help me to confront when necessary and always with kindness and respect. Make me an instrument of Your peace!