Often times, our first reaction to someone who wrongs us is revenge, the first prison wall of withholding forgiveness. Revenge means retaliation, or repayment.
We are harmed in three ways, representing our 3 resources of life: (1) talent — the unique person God has created us to be, (2) treasure, and (3) time. Jesus addressed all three regarding how we should let go of revenge. Jesus commanded us to let go and not hold on to revenge when any of our three resources of life are dinged by others.
We let go of revenge for an attack on our talent. Jesus taught: “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39). A strike on the right cheek was made with the back of one’s right hand (dominant hand). The phrase “strikes you on the right cheek” was an idiomatic expression for an insult. Today, we use similar phraseology when we say, “That was a backhanded comment.” An insult is an attack on our talent — the unique person God has created us to be. In turning the other cheek, we are ignoring the insult which is a character trait of wisdom (Proverbs 12:16). We let go of the prison wall of revenge.
We let go of revenge for an attack on our treasure. Jesus continued: “If someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well” (Matthew 5:40). In ancient Palestine, a tunic and coat represented one’s only asset, or treasure. When our treasure is harmed, Jesus communicated that we should let go of the prison wall of revenge.
We let go of an attack on our time. Jesus concluded: “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matthew 5:41-42). Two thousand years ago, a Roman soldier was empowered with the authority to stop any person in order to be used to carry out official business. The person was charged with carrying goods or correspondence up to approximately one mile. A Persian royal post officer could do the same. This dinged the resource of one’s time. Jesus taught His disciples to go two miles, and let go of the prison wall of revenge.
Jesus commanded us to let go of the first prison wall of withholding forgiveness, the prison wall of revenge. When our resources of life (talent, treasure, or time) are taken, we are to let go because the small horizontal debts pale in comparison to these vertical debts let go of us in Christ. Besides, the resources are graciously given to us by God.