Religion roundtable: “Does the belief ‘an eye for an eye’ give us the right to retaliate?”
Jan 19, 2013 | 2531 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Justice, not revenge

It’s been a century or more since anyone used the term “muscular Christianity” with a straight face, but I’m convinced that we never let it go. The ways of Jesus are so … well, so pacifistic.

Even biblical literalists want to take “turn the other cheek” as some sort of metaphor that can be laid aside when the going gets rough. God gave us fists that can hit and feet that can kick, so why not use them when provoked?

We look for permission to respond, to hit back when we’re hurt, to retaliate when we’re wounded. We are willing to “give it up to God” unless we’re really mad. But Jesus said to turn the other cheek, and he meant it.

The “eye for an eye” business in the Old Testament wasn’t permission to hurt another in revenge. Rather, it was a limitation on how far the law should go; punishment shouldn’t exceed the crime.

Biblical law always had been about equity and justice, not about personal revenge. Then Jesus told us to demand less when it comes to ourselves, to spend less time worrying about getting even and more about getting right with God and our neighbor. Less time hating our enemies and more time praying for them.

The nonviolence preached by Jesus isn’t a remedy for past wrongs. It’s a path to peace.

Michael Rich, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Jacksonville

Give him your coat, also

The laws of “eye for an eye” were given to people who had been slaves in both their mentality and reality; now they are challenged with freedom — what a challenge! They are challenged with laws that will aid in the responsibility of self-governance.

After centuries of national turmoil, we come to the kingdom ethics of Jesus, who would teach that if a man takes your shirt, give him your coat also; if he makes you walk one mile, then go two.

When I was in school, I was told, “If someone hits you, you’d better hit them back.” I discovered that strategy never really worked out. It usually led to more trouble.

So how should we protect ourselves, since it is becoming clear that schools are no longer safe places? Some schools have a zero tolerance policy towards violence, but what good is that when the school also has a zero “tattling” policy?

“Don’t tattle so much” is what the student is told. Teachers can’t constantly send children to the office. Where are the “classroom management” skills? Teachers can’t spend all day dealing with behavior issues, i.e. “he did this” and “she said that.”

Here is a question: What if we, the religious, begin to teach our children by our words and deeds the tenants of our faith — do you think it would change the world?

Steven Richardson, 17th Street Missionary Baptist Church, Anniston