Monday, 9 March 2009

An Eye for an Eye

In a quite literal manifestation of the laws given to the Hebrews in Exodus 21, an Iranian woman who was blinded and disfigured after a man threw acid in her face has welcomed the decision by a Tehran court to do the same to him. Ameneh Bahrami, 30, rejected a marriage request from the man - known only as Majid - who responded by waiting for her outside of her workplace to throw acid on her. Ms Bahrami (seen above) who is currently in Barcelona receiving medical treatment waived her right to $25,000 so that the man would be blinded in both eyes, rather than just one as was originally intended.

But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
Exodus 21v23-25

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 someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
- Jesus
Matthew 5 v 38-39

This is perceived to be one of the Bible's great contradictions. Some reading around however sheds some light. In the time the law was given, the concept of “an eye for an eye” was not a requirement, but a limit. The purpose of the statement was not that if someone pokes out your eye, deliberately or not, then you HAVE TO poke out his eye in return. The statement’s purpose was to say that if somebody deliberately pokes out your eye, then you have the right to avenge your mistreatment, but ONLY UP TO what they’ve done to you. You could merely punch them in the nose if that satisfies justice for you, or you could go all the way up to the point of
poking out his eye in return, but no more. You can’t chop of his head if he poked out your eye. In a world where blood feuds were common, meaning that one family would go to war with another family because of a series of escalating insults and violent actions. The concept of “an eye for an eye” stopped the escalation of violence. The concept was simply “if you must retaliate, then you
can only go this far and no further.” Another commentator wrote that if someone killed your sheep, it was the 'macho' thing to go to his and kill five of his cows. Thus starting a tit-for-tat.

In Northern Ireland we know all about tit-for-tat murders. Perhaps even now some loyalists are plotting revenge for the two British soldiers murdered in Antrim Saturday night. But where does that get us? Is that not what the dissidents want? A civil war to encourage Britain to wash its hands of us? Justice must be sought, in that these murderers should be brought to trial and sentenced accordingly. But can we go further? Can we offer forgiveness? Mercy? Even Grace? Jesus advocates justice. But he also calls us to go further. When one considers that he calls us to offer forgiveness instead of seeking revenge, to love instead of hating and to forgo our rights, is that really a religion to use as a crutch? What would you do if you were Ameneh Bahrami?

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