“Our once great western Christian civilization is dying. If this matters to followers of Jesus Christ, then we must set aside our denominational differences and work together to strengthen the things that remain and reclaim what has been lost. Evangelicals and Catholics must stand together to re-establish that former Christian culture and moral consensus. We have the numbers and the organization but the question is this: Do we have the will to win this present spiritual battle for Jesus Christ against secularism? Will we prayerfully and cooperatively work toward a new Christian spiritual revival ― or will we choose to hunker down in our churches and denominationalisms and watch everything sink into the spiritual and moral abyss of a New Dark Age?” - Mark Davis Pickup
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
FAIRNESS IN JUSTICE & GRACE OVER REVENGE
He took great pleasure in depicting God as a vengeful Being -- ready to pounce on poor humanity for the slightest infraction against His holy law. Ted would attack God and Christianity based on this caricature; he would contort his face like an ogre in mock imitation of this caricature and hiss, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth!"
One day, after hearing this tiresome routine for the umpteenth time, I asked Ted if he knew where in the Bible that passage is found, or if he could complete the verse. He could do neither and flew into a fury at having his biblical ignorance exposed. Ted did not know the Bible. He merely regurgitated snippets of Scripture he heard somewhere in his past in order to bolster his case against God and his prejudice against Christianity. I doubt he even owned a Bible.
The actual Scripture is found in Exodus 21 and must be taken in context:
"If men fight and hurt a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman's husband imposes on him; but if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.*
This Scripture deals with Lex Talionis, or the principle of tit for tat. It was meant to do more than enforce strict justice; it was also meant to prevent greater penalties than crimes warranted, or punishments that exceeded the injury. This is different from exacting personal revenge.
For example, we read in Genesis 4.23 that Lamech bragged to his wives: "I have killed a man for wounding me, even a young man for hurting me." That was distorted revenge, not justice.
Under God's guidance, Moses placed judgment for wrongdoing under the authority of judges. The "tooth for a tooth" statement was meant to call judges to be absolutely fair in their rulings.
Christ spoke about the principle of a tooth for a tooth: "You have heard that it was said, 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also." (Matthew 5.38-39. Cf. Proverbs 20.22, Luke 6.29, Romans 12.17, 1Corinthinians 6.7, 1Peter 3.9) Jesus exhorted Christians to forego legality for the sake of love not hatred, grace not revenge. In doing this, Christians give a powerful and disarming witness to the love of God.
Several years ago, Ted died from a heart attack. As far as I know, he went to his grave cursing God and His Church. (I must be careful about conjecture.) What happened in Ted's last few moments on earth are between him and God. What I do know is that God does not want anybody to die in their sins.
"As I live, says the Lord, I swear I take no pleasure in the death of a wicked man, but rather in the wicked man's conversion, that he may live. Turn, turn from your evil ways!" (Ezekiel 11.33)
The Apostle Peter said that God is "longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2Peter 3.9).
We are all called to repentance, through faith in Jesus Christ. How we respond, ... well, that's up to us. Yes, that is up to us. God will not make us love him.
* Exodus 21.22-25, cf. Leviticus 24.17-20, Deuteronomy19.
NB: Abortion advocates have occasionally used this passage to try and show that the unborn child has less value than the woman. But that's not what it's saying at all. In fact, one biblical commentary makes the follow the comment about verses 22-25:
"Of special interest to many Christians are verses 22-25. Unfortunately, most translations leave the reader with the false impression, which has led in turn to the wrong application of the passage to the abortion issue. In short, this law deals with the results of a pregnant woman being struck (accidentally) by two men who are fighting. The result of this unfortunate attack is a 'miscarriage' according to most English translations. The text continues: "[If] there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined. . . . if there is injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye . . ." (v.23). This has often been interpreted to mean that a miscarriage occurred. Then the issue becomes how the mother was affected -- the implication being that the fetus really did not matter; it was not considered a human being and the focus of attention was the mother. This passage is often used by advocates of abortion to say that since God did not demand punishment for the loss of the child, then the fetus did not have image-of-God status.
However, the Hebrew of 21-22 literally reads, "and hit a pregnant woman so that her child(ren) come forth, and no harm follows, the one who hurt her shall be fined." Here the King James and New Internal translations are helpful. The Hebrew word for miscarriage is not used here. Our text portrays a woman being struck then delivering prematurely. The very passage used for some to support abortion, in fact, goes in the opposite direction. In this case, the woman is accidentally struck, but if she or the child dies as a result, the guilty party could be sentenced to death. This is the only instance in the Torah where involuntary manslaughter calls for the death penalty. Generally, the guilty party was to receive refuge from the 'avenger of blood' and was not to be put to death (Deut. 19.4-10). Injury to the unborn is the only exception. The reason seems clear enough: God places high value on the unborn. The law always expresses concern for those least able to defend themselves." (James K. Hoffmeier, "Exodus" in Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: BAKER BOOK HOUSE, 1989) P. 56.)