Everyone feels that they have been wronged at some point in their life. Some person, agency, corporation, or other entity said or did something that really hurt. People’s life courses could even have been affected by the words or actions of others. There are a lot of people out there who think that the course of their lives hinge on “justice.” If only the person who hurt them could be hurt just as bad, then the universe could find order, and their life could get back on track. Many of these people use the term, “An eye for an eye,” to justify this sentiment, but is that really what that statement means–revenge?
Perhaps the bible condones such violence: ‘If a man injures his neighbor, just as he has done, so it shall be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; just as he has injured a man, so it shall be inflicted on him.’ Leviticus 24:19-20, but I see things differently.
Have we learned nothing from famous stories about revenge: Montague vs. Capulet; Hatfield vs. McCoy; Captain Ahab vs. The Great Whale. The list could go on. The stories show how revenge destroys love, life, and self. The lust for revenge can be all-consuming. The concept of someone driving everything but the desire to hurt another from their heart and mind is saddening, on a fundamental level.
I’d like to do something that my Christian friends do quite often, and take this verse out of context. Let’s forget about verse 19 completely, and we’ll drop the first part, and last half of verse 20, as well. That leaves us with: eye for eye, tooth for tooth. Let’s construct a more docile meaning from this.
Instead of looking at this as an excuse to hurt someone else, let’s see it as an opportunity to help others. Let’s say that while trying to hurry up for Christmas dinner tonight, I hurry up to mop the floor and leave it a little too wet. When my guests arrive, one of them slips and injures his/her ankle. Because I am responsible for that injury, I would be responsible for stepping in and helping that guest with his/her everyday chores until the ankle heals. Essentially, I would be the ankle.
If I were to cause someone to go blind, I would help them…be their eyes.
Instead of looking for excuses to hurt one another, we should be finding reasons to help each other.