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Eye for an Eye: What did Jesus say about Eye for an Eye

What Did Jesus say about an Eye for an Eye

Jesus addressed the concept of “an eye for an eye” in Matthew 5:38-45, during His Sermon on the Mount. He challenged the old understanding of justice as it was stated in the Old Testament (Leviticus 24:19-20; Deuteronomy 19:21), which was based on the principle of equal retaliation for injuries (lex talionis). Jesus said:

“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. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” .

Three Main Takeaways:

  1. Transformation of Justice: Jesus introduces a radical transformation of the concept of justice from retribution to forgiveness and love. Instead of seeking revenge or equal retribution, Jesus encourages his followers to respond to evil and aggression with acts of kindness and forgiveness.
  2. Ethic of Love: The command to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you underlines the central ethic of Christian love. This ethic goes beyond mere tolerance or passive acceptance, actively seeking the good of others regardless of how they treat us.
  3. Identification with God’s Character: Jesus explains that this radical approach to interpersonal relationships is reflective of God’s character. By loving our enemies and acting generously toward those who wrong us, we mirror the perfection and unconditional love of God, who offers his love and blessings to all, irrespective of their actions.

Jesus’ teachings challenge individuals to reconsider their responses to injustice and aggression, promoting an ethic of love, forgiveness, and peace over retaliation and revenge.


  • Greg Gaines

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