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The Law of Retribution or Jesus’ New Law?

Today’s gospel follows on with the teachings of Jesus from the ‘Sermon on the Mount’.

He quotes the law of retribution common in ancient societies: ‘an eye for an eye’. This law of commensurate retribution was a distinct advance on the endless feuding of barbarian societies.

The New Law of Jesus does not do away with the human laws which are essential to human society; it adds a new dimension that will foster a society that is more life-giving. Jesus teaches that the provisions of strict justice are not enough to foster the healthy human community of God’s designs for the human family.

When Jesus says, ‘Offer the wicked man no resistance’, he is not saying that we should never defend ourselves and seek justice when we are wronged. These words are applied to the persecutions suffered by the Jewish converts of his community; but they have far wider implications. If hatred is contagious, so too is good will. Jesus forgave his enemies. It must be understood that Jesus does not outlaw organised resistance to injustice; he is pointing to what will often prove a better way. Certainly, as the last section of today’s gospel shows, the charter of Jesus is a call to learn and identify with the generous and merciful ways of God, the Father in Heaven who cares for ‘bad men as well as good’.

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