If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out.--Hammurabi's Code, Law Number 196
Hammurabi's Code is the oldest known written record of laws. Though it was probably written about 1772 B.C., Jesus and his contemporaries were familiar with at least some of these laws. While it is unknown for certain whether Abraham lived before, during or after Hammurabi, he is believed to have originated in that same area. If you take the time to compare the Code of Hammurabi to Exodus 21, you will note some similarities including Exodus 21:23-25, Leviticus 24:20 and Deuteronomy 19:21 which are the passages Jesus was referring to when He said:
You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.- Matthew 5:38 (NLT)
This is the way the world lives. This is "justice" and whether we admit it or not, deep in our hearts we know this is true. It is only right that the person who inflicted injury upon someone else deserves to have the same injury inflicted on them. One may say that they are not in favor of the death penalty however, their feelings might very well change toward a murderer if the crime was committed against someone they loved! Like it or not, we have an inborn sense that justice must be executed whether we like it or not.
Justice dictated that we have to suffer the consequences of sin. This is why bad things happen to "good people" and when they do, we cry out that there was injustice. In reality however, it is only justice being served. Though it may sound harsh, we are getting exactly what we deserve (Romans 3:23a).
Jesus does not stop at Matthew 5:38...
Yes, that is The Law but now we are about to learn about mercy and grace. As we stand before The Judge, God Himself, Jesus Christ acts as our advocate. The Law demands an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. We deserve death but Jesus Christ took our punishment upon Himself and justice was satisfied. However, there is more...not only are we not given what we deserve, we are given what we don't deserve. We are given mercy and grace.
This is why Jesus said:
But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.- Matthew 5:39 (NLT)
God extended mercy and grace towards us, therefore we must extend it toward others; not when they beg for it but when it happens.
We don't like this and right away we cry out that justice is not being done, that we must protect ourselves, if something is not done the whole world will turn into a war zone, innocent people will be hurt, etc. Let me be clear that the issue here is not about physically, emotionally and mentally protecting yourself and others. The issue Jesus was really addressing here was revenge.
The society Jesus was living in openly endorsed revenge. It still does in many respects. Ours does too actually although due to the influence of Christianity, we tend to be a bit more... discreet. Whether you're doing it openly or stealthily makes no difference. Revenge is revenge and it is wrong for us as Christians to allow revenge to gain a foothold in our lives. We who understand that we have been shown mercy and grace must go and do the same.
Just an aside comment many 'scholars' will claim that the 10 commandments were a copy of the -Hammurabi's Code, thereby deneying that the 10 commandments were anything special. This illustrates how when we only use our intellect to understand the bible the conclusions we come to.
But ignoring the above a good blog
Revenge keeps wars going for years. Ancient tribes and clans were in a state of permanent war because of revenge. We still see in Africa and the middle east the motive of revenge leading to massive loss of life. When this is tied in some way to personal honor it then leads to duels, family feuds and even Fathers killing their own children. All because someone would not forgive an insult.