Recently someone asked me for a metaphysical take on “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” and whether “we” (metaphysicians) believe in the death penalty. Here is the passage where Jesus teaches on this, and one, perhaps surprising, metaphysical interpretation.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, don’t resist him who is evil; but whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. If anyone sues you to take away your coat, let him have your cloak also. Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and don’t turn away him who desires to borrow from you.
–Matthew 5:38-42 World English Bible (WEB)
First, we need to understand where this law originated. It goes back to Exodus 21:24, which in WEB reads, “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”
Basically, laws in the time of Moses established a framework to keep society in order and prevent chaos and anarchy. People could not be counted on to do the right thing, so fear/consequence-based laws were instated. Under these laws, if you put someone’s eye out, yours would be put out in return. Whatever you did, particularly evil things, would be done to you, too.
This is also referenced in Leviticus 24:20 and Deuteronomy 19:21. This was the “thou shalt not” phase of the law, which Jesus did not come to destroy (Matthew 5:17-18, but to provide spiritual conduct as a foundation. Before Christ, people thought observing the letter of the law by performing the “right” rituals, while still harboring negativity in mind and heart, was sufficient. Jesus taught otherwise.
In this section of The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to the old law, and gives a spiritual expansion of its letter, or literal interpretation. So, since the time of Christ, taking “an eye for an eye,” subjecting offenders to the self-same action they committed, is not following the law. In reality, this is repaying evil consciousness (wrong thinking) with evil consciousness. And even in secular society, we know two wrongs don’t make a right.
We’re encouraged, no, strongly advised, not to resist evil.
39 But I tell you, don’t resist him who is evil; but whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also.
However, and this is a big one, this does not mean we have to be doormats and let evil doers (negative people) walk all over us, and accept their conduct toward us! It does mean that we must see through their actions to the truth of their, and our being.
When the “cheek of evil” is turned to you, turn the “cheek of truth” back to it.
“I behold the Christ in you,” is what can make metaphysics hard to live. It’s because in order to be truly spiritual, we can’t just appear to forgive people. We have to really, truly let things go, and not just cover them up or suppress them! Who wants to do that?
No one, that’s who! At least, no one in a vengeful state of mind can do that. That is why we recognize the Christ idea within us. Because only by letting that idea take over our wayward, fight or flight personal mind, can we rise above anyone’s treatment of us. And rise we must, because if we don’t, we can’t have the abundant life Christ promises us.
So, which do you want? To be right, or to be happy?
The references to giving up your cloak, going the extra mile, etc. are the Oriental way of driving a point home. The teaching is the same: Do not resist evil, but return it with good.
And you thought metaphysics was all hearts and flowers! It could be, but we have to get rid of the weeds so strongly planted in the deepest levels of our minds first. That is not work for the faint at heart.
The question put to me was whether we believe in the death penalty. Again, we see another way in which metaphysics demands individual responsibility. Jesus did not teach, and we don’t teach, that the death penalty itself is either right or wrong. What we teach, is that if you continue on the road of lower, victim, vengeful consciousness, yes, you will experience death. That is, the death of the soul, when you could have had abundant life, had you chosen the narrow way of Higher Mind Awareness.
If you want someone put to death, what will that get you? We know that whatever we wish for someone, we will get back. Perhaps not in the same literal way, but energetically, karmically, it will come back to us. If you want death, go for it! Plenty of people do. However, if you want something better, that which is truly your divine right, reach for that instead.
Death may seem easier. whether To kill our souls by following the ego’s path, or to want someone physically killed for something they’ve done. But will it truly serve in the long run? Will it evolve you to a higher place?
All we are responsible for, is our own individual consciousness. The good news is that when we connect daily with the God-Presence within us, the ego eventually catches on and starts to learn from that God-Presence. It is then that we notice progress, deep within our minds as well as in our outer lives.
Deep within each of us, there is a part of us that knows. It knows what is right, what is true, and what serves God’s purpose. And it is why we pray, sincerely and not just saying so, “Thy will be done.”
And so it is!