Today's Word of Encouragement

Lex Talionis

Thursday, June 18, 2020
     You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ (Matthew 5:38).

     We live in a highly litigious society where it seems everyone is looking for an opportunity to sue everyone else, even fraudulently. It has gotten to the point where it’s almost maddening, causing people to be afraid to do anything in fear they may be taken to court. And the awards the courts are handing down to the guilty are absurd. But, it was that way in the days of Jesus too.
     Lex Talionis is Latin for ‘the Law of Retaliation’ or ‘retributive justice’. It refers to a punishment that resembles an offense committed in kind and degree. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. "When a man strikes the eye of his slave, male or female, and destroys it, he shall let the slave go free because of his eye. If he knocks out the tooth of his slave, male or female, he shall let the slave go free because of his tooth (Exodus 21:23-27; see also Leviticus 24:17-22 and Deuteronomy 19:21).
     Prior to Lex Talionis, Israel was subject to the basic law of ‘open retribution’ practiced by most, if not all of her neighbors. Revenge for an injury or loss could be taken to its furthest extent or as far as a person, family, tribe, or kingdom could get away with. If someone killed your horse, you could wipe out his entire herd of horses. If a person killed your son, you could kill his entire family. God gave Lex Talionis as an instrument of mercy; a restriction upon unrestrained retaliation.
     Jesus found no fault in Lex Talionis as it applied to the judicial system of His day; He did not seek to repeal it. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus corrected the abuse of Lex Talionis. You see, the Jews had applied the law to private practice, making it a personal law by which they could exact revenge. With it they felt justified to inflict the same injury on others that they had received. Jesus said NO! He said Lex Talionis did not apply privately; it was given only to regulate the courts. Private retribution was to be governed by different principles.
     Jesus called His followers to a higher law, a higher code of conduct. Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you . . . . love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:39-42,44-45). Granted, this is an impossibility apart from the saving grace of Jesus Christ in the Christian.
     “Father, You have called us to love one another, to show grace and mercy to others, even our enemies. I confess this is a very difficult teaching to practice. Even though I may not say or do anything to those who cause conflict, stir up trouble, take advantage of or criticize and condemn me, I do harbor resentment in my mind and heart, imagining what revenge I could exact on them. Forgive me for such thoughts. Continue to conform me to the image of Jesus Christ, that I may love others as You have loved me through Him. Amen.”

Pastor Martin

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