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Long, long ago, before there were police or judges or laws, justice was pretty hard to find.
A man from Village A would hurt a man from Village B.Divide your children into Village A and Village B, or choose whether you and your child are going to be Village A or B. Have everyone from Village B say: “Ow!”
So a man from Village B would go and kill a man from Village A.Village A says: “Ow!” a bit louder.
Then a couple of men from Village A would kill ten men from Village B.Village B says: “Ow!” louder still.
So Village B would form an army and raze Village A to the ground.Village A says: “Ow!” loudest of all.
It wasn’t really justice at all. It was just revenge. And it caused more and more damage as it went along.
So someone came up with an idea for justice. It’s in the Old Testament part of the Bible, but you can find it in other places, too.
And the idea was: “An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth.”
It still sounds pretty harsh, though, doesn’t it?
If a man from Village A poked out the eye of a man from Village B (Village B says: “Ow!” and points to their eye), a man from Village B got to poke out the eye of a man from Village A in return. Village A says: “Ow!” and points to their eye.
But only one eye. Not two.
If a man from Village A knocked out the tooth of a man from Village B, (Village B says: “Ow!” and points to their tooth), a man from Village B got to knock out the tooth of a man from Village A in return. Village A says: “Ow!” and points to their eye.
But only one tooth. And no more.
It was still a kind of revenge, but it was meant to limit what you could do back to someone if they hurt you. Only an eye for an eye. Only a tooth for a tooth.
And then Jesus came along, and he had a completely different idea about justice altogether.
“You have heard the saying: ‘An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth,’” he said to the people he was teaching.
“But here’s what I say. Don't push back against the person who hurts you. If he hits you on the right cheek (have everyone point to their right cheek), turn your left cheek in his direction, too. Have everyone point to their left cheek.
It sounds a little crazy, and dangerous, too. But Jesus knew what he was doing. If someone hits you, part of what they are trying to prove is that they are more powerful than you; they are in charge. When you don’t fight back, when you turn the other cheek, you show that you are in charge of the situation; you have made a choice not to fight. And you show them up for the bullies they are.
But that’s not all that Jesus said. “If someone sues you in a court of law and takes your shirt (have everyone pretend to take off their shirt), let him have your cloak as well.” Repeat action.
Yeah, that’s right. In those days, if someone took both your shirt and your cloak you'd pretty well be naked. But then people would look at the man who had taken your shirt and your cloak and would say what a greedy, evil person he was. And they would likely shame him into giving it back. It would make his evil clear to everyone without a fight!
And finally, Jesus told people that if someone forces you to go a mile (have everyone make a walking motion), go two miles, instead. Repeat motion.
Roman soldiers often did that to people, forcing them to carry stuff. They did it to show that they were more powerful than the people in the nations they ruled. Again, the action Jesus taught puts the person who is pushed around on an equal level with the person doing the pushing because he chooses, and is not forced, to go that second mile. And by returning kindness for harsh treatment he shows that there is a better way.
Hopefully, both Village A and Village B will keep all their eyes and teeth, and will discover that if you return something other than harm for harm you can challenge the other person to think about what they are doing. You will maybe even see them change, and potentially make a just world for everyone!
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