There was an old holy man sitting on the banks of the
Ganges meditating while worshippers bathed in the river to wash away their sins. The old man noticed a scorpion struggling in the water trying to get to the shore. As it floated closer to him it became tangled in some reeds by the waters edge. The more it struggled, the more entangled it became, so the old man reached out to free the scorpion from its watery fate. As he touched the creature – it began to sting his hand. Despite the pain, he continued to free it; placing it on the shore.
A young man nearby watching shouted to him, “Why do you risk such pain for such a useless and ugly creature?”
The holy man replied, “Just because it is the nature of the scorpion to sting, why I should give up my nature to save?”
“An eye for an eye – a tooth for a tooth. . .” – aren’t we all familiar with this phrase? We often hear it used when someone is hurt or offended and they're seeking revenge: to repay a hurt for a hurt. We use it to say: “I will get you back for what you did to me.”
Many people agree that this is a just act of vengeance – to repay in kind for a hurt caused. I’ve even heard people justify its use because it appears in the Bible.
But what is the root of this phrase found in Leviticus? It is a philosophy known as “lex talionis” - a system of retributive justice – not vengeance. Simply put, under lex talionis, no one could exact revenge or ask for compensation that was greater then the hurt. It set limits to vengeance to prevent people from plunging into escalating blood feuds that could last for decades and waste countless lives.
It was philosophy of justice to maintained peace and civility among the people, but today people often use it as a standard of justice on which they believe they are compelled to act.
Jesus revokes lex talionis when He says ". . . do not seek vengeance – an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth, - but if you are struck on your right cheek - turn your other cheek as well. If someone sues the shirt off your back - hand over your coat as well. , if someone presses you to a task – give more than is asked. By these signs will you make known the power, glory and love of God."
It isn’t easy being a Christian. Every day we are challenged to be loving followers of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Who can pick up a newspaper or watch a talking TV head or tap into the social media or listen to talk radio without someone making us hot, raising our blood pressure or making us want to shout, “Throw the rascals out!”
Rarely are we led to say, “Now, let us pray. . .”
Jesus challenges his followers to live in a radically new way – to love our neighbor – to be signs of God’s love in the world for all his people.
And who is our neighbor? Besides the obvious, they are:
That person who cut you off at the toll plaza –
That rotten, no-good son-of-a-sea-cook who . . .(fill in your own demon du jour)
Even those people espousing fear and hate; vowing to destroy us and our way of life
All those in the world – our brothers and sisters, children of God – who struggle as we do each day for peace, dignity, respect and love.
Love those people?!
Pray for those people?!
Wish them every good thing in life as you wish for yourself?!
Asking nothing in return?!
Jesus shows us that this is the way to eternal life – loving as we are loved – His is - the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Jesus shows us the way of the Father and His love for all his children – the just and the unjust - the good and the bad. We are all God’s children and he treats us all with equal love. If we are followers – true disciples of Jesus, then we should “be perfect, just as our heavenly Father is perfect.”
Perfection is living the love of God – loving one another as we are loved. Not a conditional love - bartered or socially contracted – we do not love because we are loved or because someone loves us in return. We love because it is our nature to love - for we are children of love, - God - who is love.
Our journey of discipleship is a journey toward the perfection of God’s love. We do not love our enemy because we hope our love will change him, but because it is our way - we are Christians – we love because we are called to love. It is the nature of our discipleship in Christ Jesus, Son of the Loving Father.
No, it’s not easy being a Christian, a disciple of Jesus, but it is the Way, the Truth and the Life that leads to eternal life.