Christian understandings of Jesus’ teaching on retaliation and love for enemies (Matthew 5: 38–48)

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  • Matthew 5:38-48
    • Jesus used violence when he overturned merchants’ tables in the Temple so he did not intend his disciples to be pacifist.
    • Jesus was talking about attitudes towards others in everyday life and he was encouraging an attitude that sought peace and love rather than revenge and hatred
    • Jesus was stating an ideal, though realising that it was virtually impossible to put into practice. It was a standard to aim for.
    • Jesus’ teaching made sense for those living under Roman occupation, when active resistance was dealt with ruthlessly. However, that was teaching for a specific situation and historical age.
      • As in hisparables, Jesus was using exaggeration to make the very practical point that desire for revenge and harbouring hatred impact negatively on the person concerned. The willingness to try to forgive and show love is essential if those who have been hurt are to move on 
    • Jesus intended his disciples to be pacifists. Rejecting all violence and whatever the provocation or the hurt caused, Christians must go against all their natural instincts and show unconditional acceptance of everyone.


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