God morning my friends,
If there is one thing most people can quote from the Old Testament it is the “eye for eye” bit. This has been used out of context so often that people assume they know what they are talking about when they quote it. However, it is more often than not a simple excuse for revenge. The death penalty advocates often use this verse out of context. I am opposed to the death penalty because I believe only God has the choice over life and death. You rob a man of his life and you have robbed him of the opportunity for repentance and forgiveness. What I find important with verse is that it reveals to us the holiness of God and what sins he finds to be particularly repugnant.
We only find reference to the “eye for eye” three times in the Old Testament. Once is in Leviticus 24, in the context of personal injury. If I hurt my neighbour then I would need to be hurt in the same manner. In Deuteronomy 19 it is used in the context of a malicious witness who was perjuring himself to try to get someone in trouble. He was to have done to him whatever the judgment would have been against the one he was lying about, including life for life.
The third one, which was actually the first that I left to last for dramatic purposes, is found in this morning’s reading, Exodus 21. It may surprise some people to see the context in which it is found. It is used in the case of someone injuring a woman during pregnancy and something happening to the baby. Note how I refer to baby and not fetus. This was a crime that our God thought to be important enough to apply the “eye for eye” ruling. Perhaps some people would be surprised by that.
I have not often spoken of our society’s attitude toward unborn babies. I have not had a lot of personal cause to do that. However, in recent months abortion has come into my hearing on a number of occasions and I am reminded of the evils of our society that are accepted without much thought. Some would not call it murder because they have dehumanized the baby by referring to him/her as a fetus. Our laws do not even protect this precious gift. If I injure a pregnant woman today I would have to face charges for her injury but not for any injury incurred by the unborn child. My harm to the mother could result in the death of that child and I would not have to answer for it; or, at least not in this present place.
This debate has gone on for a long time and as long as the rights of one individual are held up to be more important than another person’s there will be no end to the debate. Under the law women have the right to choose. After all, it is their body. Our laws do not recognize that the unborn child also has rights that should supersede the rights of the woman upon whom he/she is dependant. Instead the law sees this child as an appendage of the woman, life a kidney. If she chooses to give away her kidney no one will stop her. However, that is not how the Word of God tells us to consider this unborn child.
We have come up with so many ways of “aborting” this new life. There are the traditional methods of going into the doctor and having the baby surgically cut out or vacuumed out of the mother’s body. There is also a pill that women can now take that will do the same thing chemically so that the woman can just flush the new life away. It sounds gross and it is. Our callus attitude toward it is horrifying. The thing is, it is something that matters to our God. He is responsible for life. He says who will have life and when that life will end. Anyone who takes that into their own hands is acting like God and there is a penalty to be paid for that.
The fact is we live in a hurting world. We live in a world where people are looking for the wrong things in the wrong places. We live in a world where no one wants to face their mistakes and they believe they should be able to just wipe their messes away instead of dealing with them. We live in a world where young girls are hurting, lost and confused and are just adding confusion on to top of confusion. Kids are playing adult in the same way that some play with matches. When you play with things you are not equipped to handle bad things are going to happen. Unfortunately too many of us choose to ignore it. But our God is not ignoring it.
Understanding the context of the “eye for eye” puts things into a better perspective. Respect of life matters. Respect it by not injuring your neighbour physically or maliciously. Respect it by protecting it from the moment it begins to the moment when God brings it to an end.