You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. Matthew 5:38-39
In any addiction, the one enslaved is intensely focused on the object of his addiction, spending a tremendous amount of time and effort compulsively pursuing this appetite. Though he usually knows wrong and right, right and wrong just don’t factor into his decision making as the appetite rules all. The attitude and direction of the addict’s life is pointed like a laser at the needs and desires of his own self-destructive pursuits. This isn’t just about drugs or alcohol. This is human nature, to pursue our hunger for food, lust, or money above all. Even though it’s self-destructive, it’s our nature put our own needs and desires above God, faith, and recovery.
In today’s passage, Jesus described a life that is completely antithetical to human nature. He said that when we are offended or injured, instead of returning evil for evil, we should choose to accept the injury without retaliation. We may be justified in inflicting evil in return, but Jesus taught that it would be spiritually healthier for us to put right behavior above our personal rights, desires, and needs. It sounds crazy, but Jesus taught that when someone steals from us, it would be better to just accept the loss, than to respond with similar behavior.
This is a difficult command to which most of us immediately object. What if someone breaks into my home? Can’t I defend my family? Jesus didn’t say we couldn’t defend our loved ones and by arguing this extreme example, we miss his point: To live as a disciple of Christ, we must put right behavior above our rights.
You are not your own, for you were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Just as Christ gave his life up for us, we are to live, not for ourselves, but for his will and purpose. It’s our nature to live for ourselves but as the addict knows, living for ourselves leads only to misery and emptiness. Though it sounds crazy, the only way to find true life, faith and recovery, is to follow Jesus’ way.