“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good. And sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:38-45
“Turn the other cheek” and “Go the extra mile” have become common clichés that are used in society to mean things like: “Get over it” and “Work hard.” But Jesus was talking about something different. He was talking about responding without violence. Don’t take revenge. Don’t punish someone in the same way as they hurt you – eye for eye. In fact, respond with love and prayer. Speak words of blessing instead of curses.
So if God doesn’t want us to punish people, or to react violently and take revenge … then why would God need to punish people in hell for their sins? Why would God want to take revenge against humankind for their behaviour? Why would he require payment – eye for eye?
If Jesus was really saying: “No more of this ‘eye for eye’ business! No more hate!” then why would he turn around and behave in a different manner toward any single human being? If Jesus really meant what he said: “I love my enemies and I give the sun and the rain to everyone, irrespective of their behaviour,” then how could he possibly abandon even his ‘enemy’ at the point of their death or at any time during their refusal to love him back?
We know that Jesus did in fact ‘turn the other cheek’ in a very big and dramatic way, when he opened up his arms in crucifixion and said “Father forgive them.” So we know that he lived what he believed in. He also said “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” So we know that God the Father does not stand in opposition to Jesus’ teaching. He does not desire ‘eye for eye’ retaliation any more than Jesus does.
So if the Father and the Son both adhere to loving their enemies, turning the other cheek to violence, and going the extra mile, then hell cannot be a place where God takes revenge, exacts punishment or separates himself from his enemies. Even in hell, it must remain true that God is love, that God loves his enemies, that God turns the other cheek, and that God is willing to go the extra mile into hell to rescue us.
Think about it.