“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.
“Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that?” Matthew 5:38-42; 44-46
Jesus wants us to manifest a different attitude personally as representatives of His kingdom and as His disciples. He wants us to refrain from retaliating. He wants us to resist the obligation to even the score. In other places in Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, God says that vengeance is a factor of His judgment; He will repay the evil done. We are not in the business of evening the score.
To be sure, He is talking about our personal lives and relationships here — not about countries, or legal matters, or baseball — most definitely not baseball.
This last weekend, the Los Angeles Angels began a 3-game series with the Texas Rangers on Friday with a bench-clearing incident on the final play of the game. The Angels won the game on a double play in the top of the ninth inning here in Anaheim. But it turned out to be a controversial play in that Rougned Odor, the Texas runner who was thrown out at second base initiated a dangerous wide slide in an attempt to trip up Andrelton Simmons, the Angels shortstop, and prevent him from making the throw to first for the final out. In the process Odor clipped Simmons in the leg with his cleats, creating a gash in his shin. Following the play, which ended the ball game, there was some pushing and shoving going on and both benches cleared of players and coaches and the scene on the field was tense. In the end there were no punches thrown and everyone went home; the Angels obviously happier because they won the game 6-0.
Things pretty much settled down after that, but had Simmons missed that throw to first as a result of Odor’s slide, it would have been a much different story. The rule for sliding into a base while a play is being made has tightened since 2015 when Chase Utley broke Ruben Tejada’s leg on a similar play. Part of the new rule states that a runner must slide “within reach of the base without changing his pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder.” That would have been an interpretation call completely up to the Umpires’ judgment and worth a challenge by the Angels had the game still gone on. But because the slide didn’t alter the outcome of the game, the incident blew over pretty fast.
The only question remaining was, “Would the Angels retaliate the next day?” Typically, in baseball, putting a player on the other team at risk has to be returned in some way by the offended team. It’s almost required by the tradition of the game. In this case, since it was the last play of the game, a typical “payback” would have been for the Angel pitcher to attempt to hit Odor with an inside pitch. That would have cleared the benches again, forcing some punches to be thrown, then finally order restored and both teams warned by the Umpire — maybe a couple of players thrown out of the game — and that would have been it — a perfect example of “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.”
Apparently Odor’s slide wasn’t egregious enough to warrant retaliation. So life goes on, and so many in cultures all over the world have to get even, except for those in the kingdom of God who personally manifest a different attitude. Jesus wants us to be distinctive. He wants us to show that we are trusting Him and not taking matters into our own hands. He wants us to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, and let God even the score, and believe me, He will, and when He does, it won’t be pretty.