38 "You have heard that it was said, `An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' 39 But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; 40 and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; 41 and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you. 43 "You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
ExhortationsIf someone insults you or tries to take advantage of you, how do you respond? Do you repay in kind?
Jesus approached the question of just retribution with a surprising revelation of God's intention for how we should treat others, especialy those who mistreat us.
When Jesus spoke about God’s law, he did something no one had done before.
He gave a new standard based not just on the requirements of justice – giving each their due – but based on the law of love and mercy.
Jesus knew the law and its intention better than any jurist or legal expert could imagine.
He quoted from the oldest recorded law in the world (also known as the lex talionis or law of retaliation): "If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe".
Such a law today seems cruel, but it was meant to limit vengeance as a first step towards mercy. This law was not normally taken literally but served as a guide for a judge in a law court for assessing punishment and penalty.