Why did God say in the OT, “an eye for an eye” but in the NT “not to resist an evil person”?

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In the sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Matthew 5:38,39). This verse was based on Ex. 21:24; Lev. 24:20; Deut. 19:21.

When this law was first given in the Mosaic era, it was a great improvement for the blood-feud system of justice which was prevalent in those days. For in these systems, the law rendered multiple interest on the injuries that were done thus exhibiting unfairness. The purpose of the Mosaic law was to execute justice. But this law didn’t excuse or allow personal revenge.

Jesus taught His followers not to seek revenge for injuries that were done to them. He addressed active hostility not passive resistance. The Christian will not meet violence with violence. He will “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21) and “heap coals of fire” upon the head of one who wrongs him (Prov. 25:21, 22).

In the sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave many other principles on treating others (Matthew 5: 21–47). He showed that He was more interested in the spirit that moves the act rather than the act itself. The Christian should not fight for what he believes to be his rights. He will succumb to hurt rather than seek a chance to cause it. He will depend on God to take revenge for him instead (Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:17-19).

Christ our example kept the spirit of this command during His ministry and death (John 18:22, 23; Isa. 50:6). “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). At the crucifixion, Christ illustrated the spirit of love when He asked His Father to forgive those who tortured Him (Luke 23:34). And Christ’s apostles followed in His example in not rendering evil for evil (Acts 22:25; 23:3; Acts 25:9, 10).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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