Exhausting Grace: An Eye for An Eye
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for an eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” – Matthew 5:38-42
Some don’t consider the idea of exhausting grace with others or even exhausting grace when it comes to God, because they take for granted the grace being offered to them. Taking for granted the grace offered is a form of disrespect. Some feel as though if someone is a believer our only recourse is to offer grace while enduring poor treatment from others. The truth is enduring poor treatment from others has an expiration date.
Those of us who follow God’s word are only human. We depend on God’s grace to endure, but there is a breaking point. The above scriptures are Jesus’ take on the law introduced below. Jesus was sharing with us that we need to exercise patience when dealing with difficult people. Exercising patience when dealing with people is a form of grace.
However, it is not a rule. Remember that grace is undeserved favor. This means it is an honor for someone to show grace. Grace isn’t shown when it’s deserved but underserved. It’s a covering for our faults not condemnation. It should not be taken for granted but received with humility and thankfulness.
What happens when someone rejects the grace being shown to them over and over again? They default back to the old system of the law which is below that says an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth:
“‘Anyone who takes the life of a human being is to be put to death. Anyone who takes the life of someone’s animal must make restitution—life for life. Anyone who injures their neighbor is to be injured in the same manner: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury. Whoever kills an animal must make restitution, but whoever kills a human being is to be put to death. You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born. I am the Lord your God.’” – Leviticus 24:22
The above was a law given to Israel in the Old Testament by God to let mankind know that there will be consequences for one’s actions. That is what the law does. It regulates what is right and wrong and provides a framework of expectation to discourage unlawful behavior. The expectation should be consequences for our actions. However, Jesus wanted to introduce an additional concept as it relates to breaking the law. That concept is grace. Again, it’s undeserved favor:
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” – John 1:17
The initial scriptures above in Matthew require us to mirror the same example of Jesus Christ. However, does this relegate us as believers to a life of putting up with abusive people when we run into people who both reject the law and reject the grace we are offering them in place of them breaking the law or pushing our boundaries? No! It does not. If we are to follow Christ’s example in showing grace to others, we need to look at further Biblical examples of those who push the limits of God’s grace and the law.
Unfortunately, some who are not mature will take the concept of loving our enemies and being kind and graceful to others as if we relinquish all of our personal needs to pacify others. Needs like safety, peace of mind, and mutual respect from others we interact with. It isn’t possible to relinquish those needs. We should either cut people off who cross our boundaries ignoring those most basic needs or deal with them according to the law.
God gave us these needs for a reason and we should be careful to be aware of them when someone is taking our grace for granted. Then, we can put boundaries in place and relinquish people back to the only option they have when pushing the goodness of our grace and kindness shown to them. That is the law. Below are some Biblical examples of God allowing people to be relegated back to the law.
“Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way.
Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So, they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants? He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.” – Matthew 21:33-41
This is the same Jesus who gave us to show our neighbors grace. He is speaking to us of people that he entrusted with what was good—a farm. Instead of respecting the fact that they’d been trusted with something they did not deserve; they took for granted God’s grace. They had no respect not appreciating what they were given. God gave them servants and raised the ranks in finally sending his son, who was also taken for granted being killed. The result of those men who’d taken God’s grace for granted was death and the loss of what was entrusted to them. Instead, it was given to someone else who would appreciate it.
Of course, this is a picture of the gospel. God sent prophets in the Old Testament and John the Baptist in the New Testament. He finally sent his son Jesus, who was killed. Salvation is not only for those whom Christ was sent—the Jews, but for all who believe. Those who believe are those who appreciate it and respect it. This example is clear in showing us it doesn’t pay to disrespect God’s grace—his undeserved favor in not destroying us even though we deserve it. However, because those in the parable continued to disrespect God and take his grace for granted; they were destroyed. They were relinquished back to the original law—an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Instead of being covered by God’s goodness; they were destroyed.
Likewise, those who continue to treat others with disrespect will face a similar outcome. This is why it’s so important for all of us to humble ourselves and take accountability.
How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; – Hebrews 2:3
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. – Hebrews 10:26-27
God is speaking about the gift of salvation and warning people not to harden their hearts against God taking his grace for granted. When we continue in sin our expectation should not be continued grace. It should be judgment. There are so many more references to this in the scripture where Christ and God can almost seem in opposition toward one another if we don’t understand that God is not a one-sided God of only grace or only judgment.
He is a God of both grace and judgment. We are made in God’s image commanded to reflect Christ in the earth. As we reflect Christ’s image, we display God’s grace to others and when necessary God’s judgement, but we must not take the law into our own hands. That is not an authority we have. Scripture warns us to strive according to the law when we have to strive.
“And if a man also strives for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strives lawfully.”- 2 Timothy 2:5
So, the above scripture is speaking of more of an Olympic-type race and how something of that sort has to be done according to the rules of the game. Even more importantly, when we are striving for justice as relief from someone’s disrespectful behavior; it must be done in respect to the laws of the land and the laws of God.
When we operate outside of the law, we place ourselves in a compromised position. This is why God warns us about allowing revenge to grow in our hearts. Vengeance according to God’s word should be left up to God. He will repay.
In the meantime, we have to stick to guarding our hearts. We guard our hearts by continuing to operate in love and Godly character while pursuing our rights within the law when applicable and necessary. This doesn’t mean we will not be angry. There are many instances of God being angry at his people. We want to be angry but avoid sin. Rehearsing the Word of God helps us to do that. Commands from the scripture below come in handy:
1. Love your enemies.
2. Bless those who curse you.
3. Do good to those who hate you.
4. Pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you.
All of the above can be done while putting up boundaries and protecting yourself within your rights under the law. When you pray for your enemies or those who seek to use you—you begin to develop a heart of compassion toward them. This protects us from a heart of vengeance.
Some young people operate in a way that is naturally disrespectful because they have not learned yet that there are only three responses that someone can get from consistent disrespect:
1. A boundary from the person being disrespected
2. The law such as someone suing or making a complaint with local police.
3. The disrespected taking the law into their own hands.
Just because someone is a Christian doesn’t mean they cannot or will not respond in either of the above three ways. We are all human. There is a lot of stress that people are under. Finally, people make mistakes. It’s best not to try people by intentionally being disrespectful. People don’t always come back from numbers 3. We should all try to live as peaceably with one another as possible.
The next time someone uses the Word of God to seek to abuse you verbally or mentally—keep this thought well in your mind that grace can be exhausted and the only thing left after rejecting grace is the law. Pursue processes according to the law to relieve yourself from the abusive disrespect of others. Allow those who have the authority to execute judgment to do so. This protects you and allows the other person to face the consequences for his/her actions. God does not relegate his sons and daughters to a life of abuse from disrespectful people.
Republished with permission from Blogs.crossmap.com, featuring inspiring Bible verses about Exhausting Grace: An Eye for An Eye.