This is how most people think of retaliation: heroes seeking and serving justice.
The dictionary defines retaliation as the act of returning like for like, especially evil for evil; an eye for an eye.
Synonyms for retaliation are revenge, backlash, resentment, entitlement, and retribution.
Justice is defined as something quite different. Justice is the quality of being just of ground or reason as manifested in conduct, dealing or treatment.
Synonyms for justice are due process, integrity, impartiality and fair-mindedness.
Jesus said this concerning retaliation:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to oppose an evil person. If someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn your other cheek to him as well. If someone wants to sue you in order to take your shirt, let him have your coat too. If someone forces you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to everyone who asks you for something. Don’t turn anyone away who wants to borrow something from you.” (Matthew 5:38-42)
Yet that’s exactly what we do: we turn away. And in that turning away, we remain stubborn, grit our teeth determined to hold onto hurt and fear, anger and bitterness. And I’m not even talking about abuse or heinous crimes here. (Although we are called to love those enemies, too!)
Think of all the neighbors, friends or family members we’ve kept at arm’s length because we’ve refused to be peacemakers, refused to be the ones to back down, decided being right is more important than offering a hand of peace, grace and love.
In first century Rome, a soldier could order anyone to carry his gear for a mile. Jesus uses a real life example to urge his followers to have a mindset of servants, not slaves. He is saying, in essence, “Don’t grumble about being forced to walk a mile with a Roman soldier – someone whose government occupies your land. Instead, be pleased to serve, and offer to walk an extra mile instead.”
It all comes down to a single choice. That’s the crux of it, isn’t it? Deciding, allowing the Spirit to work through us to change our minds and hearts. And, oh, how God could heal us if we let Him.
“Some might suggest that this is a recipe for Christians to be doormats, but I see this as something quite different. I see this as Christians being called to great strength, for through all of this, we are called to rely not on our own ability to strike back, but upon the inner strength of God to overcome evil with good; this is the way of love.” Don Merritt, The Life Project
I also see it as something different. When we do what Jesus asks, the Spirit delivers a different mindset. He transforms us. He takes us out of the victim role and places us squarely in the role of overcomers: ones who have strength, peace of mind, stability and self-control. We become the ones who choose to offer integrity and fair-mindedness. We become the ones who extend God’s hand of peace, grace, love and forgiveness.
When we live from a place of love instead of anger or fear, we make a choice to serve. We make a choice to go an extra mile because it’s a natural part of living our lives. We don’t have to mull over a request. We automatically say, “Of course,” and follow through joyfully to the fullest.
“I have loved you the same way the Father has loved me. So live in My love. If you obey My commandments, you will live in My love. I have obeyed My Father’s commandments, and in that way I live in His love. I have told you this so that you will be as joyful as I am, and your joy will be complete.” (John 15:9-11)