Monday, May 12, 2014
My Eye For Yours?
"Fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury." - (Lev. 24:20)
What if God's intention with this law was to inspire His people to realize that if they injure another person (take their eye out, for example) that what they're actually doing is taking out their own eye?
Isn't this just the flip side of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you?" It seems like just another way to phrase the same idea, doesn't it?
I can't help but wonder if this is exactly what God had in mind. The reciprocal nature of these commands seems intended to evoke such a response.
So, if I harm another person, I'm also harming myself in the exact same way. This should have inspired people to refrain from harming others because to do so would be to harm themselves.
It also helps us to realize that their pain is my pain, and that my pain is theirs. Especially in the "shalom" community in which people were often very much connected to one another for generations, the command in Leviticus seems designed to remind people that to harm others is to harm yourself.
Of course, Jesus takes it another step forward and says, "Bless those who curse you." (Luke 6:26-27)So, he is advocating for a proactive love rather than simply a passive refrain from harm or evil. But it's still two sides of the same coin, I believe.
The command in Leviticus seems almost like what you'd expect God to say to a people who didn't yet have the Holy Spirit living within them. In their flesh they should have understood that to take someone's eye, or their tooth, or property, etc. is to harm themselves and to lose their own eye, tooth, or property, etc.
Once Jesus arrived on the scene He expanded this idea to include proactive love and further pressed the concept of our connectedness as human beings.
"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." (Matt. 5:38-39)
Jesus raises the stakes. He compels us to reject the simple "eye for eye" approach, perhaps because it was not producing the desired results. People were still focused more on the post-violence retribution than on pre-violence restraint. Therefore, Jesus turns it all around and commands us to accept the violence done against and refuse the right to do violence in return.
Why? Because we are all children of God made in His image.
Under the Law of Moses, then, if I harm you I am harming myself in the same way.
Under the Law of Love, if you harm me I turn around and bless you as if you were my friend or my brother.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor 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 his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-48)
Dear Lord, Jesus, give us eyes to see the truth in your words. Help us to love as you love. Teach us to abandon the "eye for an eye" approach and begin to practice proactive love.