Saturday 22 February 2014

Epiphany 7 Matthew 5:38-48 "An eye for an eye"

I think that the phrase "an eye for an eye" is the trigger for some very divisive social ethics. It is of course the foundation of the legislation of the death penalty. Interestingly I find myself despite becoming more hardline as I age, repelled by the injunction to give back what was done to me. The reason is that the buck never stops.

As followers of Jesus I expect us to have a higher calling, to change the world no less, perhaps bit by bit but nevertheless to be part of a chain of change. We cant do that if we give back the same that was given to us.

I think it probably also stems from a sense of humility. We all, I believe, born into the right circumstances and contexts could commit murder or lesser crimes, edged on by poverty, environment, necessity. We are all the same.

Turning the other cheek is not something I would do easily. But time and again in life I find it is the lesser of evils. It doesnt mean you let people beat you up again, walk over you or abuse you again, you just dont do it to them. And I think it makes you a better person and maybe at peace.

If you have been wronged it would be nice to think our judicial systems would right the wrong too. Sadly that is often not the case. The children abused by priests/clergy/anybody have not had justice, nor the victims of Jimmy Saville. It needed to be exposed. However neither the Vatican, churches in general or the BBC have yet righted those wrongs. And before any forgiveness there should be justice. The nearest we have got to this in my lifetime has been the Truth and Reconcilliation Commission in South Africa.

There are moving and courages stories of people who not only have turned the other cheek but have forgiven. They are rare God given, moving stories (see th Forgiveness Project for more on this), but I nor anyone else has the right to demand forgiveness. It is a rare and God given occurrance. Jesus simply asks us to be different, turn the other cheek, dont give an eye for an eye.



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