Leviticus 24:17-23 Tit For Tat

Equal justice and retribution. Nothing more and nothing less.

God has just finished giving His judgement regarding blaspheme and now he goes onto deal with the fighting itself. He pronounces justice be balanced.

I had a martial arts teacher when I was a teenager that had a philosophy about retribution for injuries. He was NOT the kind of man who believed in simply stopping an attacker’s effectiveness. He said “If someone hits me, I will hit them back harder. If they make me bleed I will break one of their bones. If they break one of my bones I will end their life.” This is NOT what God calls for!

God stated that the punishment or retribution had to fit the crime equally. If you kill a person, you forfeit your own life. If you break someone’s bone your bone is broken in return. “Fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given him” (verse 20). No more and no less. This puts a cap on “revenge” as well as putting a top and bottom limit on judgement.

This “justice” wasn’t to be carried out in the streets by anyone. It was punishment to be meted out by those in authority. I don’t know if the administrator of such judgement, besides the death penalty, would actually mete out tit for tat or if lesser offenses were assigned a monetary value for injuries. My bible helps suggests that but I don’t know if I agree.

I do agree that the common person was not to carry out sentence. If they did there would be a never ending string of punishments required. If A kills B and C kills A for killing B then D has to kill C for killing A and so on. As Gandhi wrote “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” This very reason is why I say there had to be some legal representative meting out punishment. I believe it would probably be the priests and later the judges whom God would set in place.

Jesus called for something different. He calls us to “turn the other cheek” instead of retaliating. He calls for forgiveness. His words are not a contradiction to God’s commands but an example of the grace God made possible through Jesus’ sacrifice. Jesus took our death penalty. He took our stripes. He took our place in judgement for sin. So now grace, mercy and forgiveness are available instead.

I wonder how this translates to the laws we use in our societies now. Is the death penalty wrong? Is it still appropriate to use “an eye for an eye” equation? I don’t know but I do know it is still important that whatever measures be meted out by those empowered with that office. I DO NOT believe in street justice. As stated earlier, where would it end?

A problem with that though is that sometimes the “bad guys” don’t get caught or pay for their crimes, here on earth. BUT I KNOW that God will ensure the appropriate judgement for each of our lives in the end. I also know that I have to forgive as He forgives me.

I have never found myself in a situation where grievous harm was done to me or someone I loved so I don’t know how I would respond in such a situation. I PRAY that I would be able to show God’s love even to the offender. I would cry for worldly justice to be done but also accept my need for spiritual forgiveness. I PRAY I never find myself in need of judging my true response!

Something else that caught my attention in our reading is that God said these standards applied equally to all Israelites and those who sojourned with them. ANYONE wishing to be part of this group had to follow the same rules. BUT He didn’t say to carry these rules out against their neighbors. This was Israel’s rules, not rules for those around them. That reminds me of something I heard as a child, “I don’t care what _____’s mother says, I’m your mother and you will follow my rules.”

God cared and cares about the rest of the world but He insists on His rules only for His children. He won’t force anyone to accept Him as their Father. He is able to, and often does, created circumstances that mete out justice to those who harm His children but He doesn’t insist Satan’s children follow His rules. He doesn’t even expect them to so neither should we. There should be no surprise when those who don’t have God in their lives don’t act like we think they should. But that doesn’t relieve us of our responsibility to act in a manner appropriate to His children. Live like He calls us to and let Him worry about the rest.

Father God, forgive me for all the times in my life when I didn’t show the mark of being Your child. The mark of demonstrating forgiveness and love. I’m SO glad I don’t still live under and eye for an eye justice. I would probably not be walking the earth any longer! Not because I physically hurt or killed someone but because of other laws that would have ended my life; punishment for stubbornness being chief among them.

Thank You that my life and my family’s lives haven’t been touched by violent crime where I would have had to put Jesus’ words to the test. PLEASE KEEP IT THAT WAY! The little challenges are enough for me. Help me rise to them as Your child and show Your love in every situation.

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