These are Jesus’ words from Matthew 5:38-48
You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 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. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
When Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth,'” he is quoting Leviticus 24:20 of the Old Testament. This phrase is sandwiched in between Leviticus 24:17, “Anyone who takes the life of a human being is to be put to death.” and Leviticus 24:21b, which repeats the line. This is the Old Testament command for the death penalty. Jesus then says but I tell you, and goes on to give a new command that is the exact opposite of the death penalty. You can read it for yourself above.
I posted this verse on Twitter, stating Jesus is against the death penalty. Someone commented and said I was taking this passage out of context because Jesus was only teaching on how Christians should treat other Christians.
The “walk a mile” command comes from the first century Roman law called impressment, where a Roman soldier could command a non-Roman Jew to carry his pack up to one mile–a pack that could weigh up to 100 pounds! This is not Christian to Christian.
In verse 45, Jesus appeals to the common grace God the Father shows to everyone, evil and good, righteous and unrighteous. Jesus is going out of his way to make sure we understand this is not talking about Christian to Christian.
I intentionally want this to be a very short, simple post where Jesus’ words speak for themselves.
Jesus is against the death penalty.
For more, check out this 2016 interview I did with Shane Claiborne.
Sign the petitions to abolish the death penalty at https://deathpenaltyaction.org/federal-death-penalty
Watch the movie Just Mercy or read the book Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson.
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