I am not a fighter by nature. I’ve never been involved in any physical fisticuffs situations. Thankfully, the schools that I studied at from kindergarten all the way through college were not violent institutions by any means. I could count on one hand the number of fights that I witnessed in person and I’d still have a few fingers to spare. Even in my very limited experience, however, I realize that most scuffles have a root in retaliation. Whether it is something that has or hasn’t been done, said or not said, heard or not heard, any action can be placed into the equation and have retaliation as the outcome. This is even the same for our verbal altercations or arguments that don’t cause physical harm, but internal instead. Should retaliation be our fall back reaction in these circumstances though?
How many times have we heard the scripture “eye for an eye” misconstrued in an attempt to justify someone’s lack of control? I’m not going to say that this isn’t biblical in origin because it is. The old testament has examples of it like in Exodus 21 where in context it portrays this retaliation form of justice. The plain and simple truth of the matter is though that just because it can be found in the bible doesn’t mean it is something we apply to our Christian repertoire. I don’t know about you, but I’m thankful that I do not have to prepare an animal sacrifice for my sins. Jokes aside, this form of justice was more to guide those who were interpreting Mosaic Law. It was a guideline for the courts and wasn’t meant be used by civilians in personal scuffles. The question then becomes what is the correct Christian way of handling conflict?
Matthew 5:38-48 answers that very question. We’ve heard it time and time again that when someone hurts you, the Christian thing is to turn the other cheek. If you read a bit further though, the action is no longer retaliation. It is love that is relentless. We see this posed in the questions of verses of 46 & 47 where Jesus asks “If ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?...If ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others?” In modern day language that would read “If I’m only loving those that are easy to love how is that different than the sinner next door?” It’s a very easy job to only give grace to those that deserve it because the list is short (see Romans 3:10 for the full list). It’s easy to give grace to no one, but you find out where your strength comes from when you give grace to those that don’t deserve it. Conflict has the same conclusion because it’s easy to give it right back when someone is upset with you. The greatest light I can be for Christ though, is to show kindness in the face of conflict and find a way to love them through their low moment.
Relentless love wins in the end.