“For there is but one essential justice which cements society, and one law which establishes this justice. This law is right reason, which is the true rule of all commandments and prohibitions. Whoever neglects this law, whether written or unwritten, is necessarily unjust and wicked.”
― Marcus Tullius Cicero
I randomly chose the Justice card from the Frideborg Tarot for today’s Christ Light Tarot post and it reminded me of this really great book by Rob Bell, What We Talk About When We Talk about God. In one chapter he sheds light on the deep wisdom contained in the Old Testament which can only be properly understood through the lens of the zeitgeist. The aim of this chapter, titled ‘Ahead,’ is to prove that God always is (and always was) ahead of humanity in terms of establishing a society based on compassion.
He mentions ‘An eye for an eye…’ as en example. When we think of this Bible quote, we often cross-reference it internally with Gandhi’s quote which ends with ‘…makes the whole world blind.’ We consider ‘an eye for an eye’ as a barbaric way of dealing with punishment because taking an eye out is pretty gross and surely prison is a less disgusting modern option? But what Bell wants us to ponder is that this law was divinely ordained to make sure that punishment was not meted out in excess of the crime… because that is exactly what we humans tend to do. When we get really pissed off, we seek revenge and then the situation escalates. War, anyone?
When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.
So what did Jesus have to say about ‘an eye for an eye’? In the Gospel of Matthew (sermon of the mount), he goes on to pull humanity even further into the future… and we’re not even there yet. Ouch!
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
This is about mercy, grace and forgiveness over justice… and for the right reason: compassion
Matthew 5:38-42 is a very humbling passage for most of us to read. When I fail to remember that being kind is more important than being right, these are the verses I want to return to.
Because the truth of the matter is that only by actively showing compassion and meting out divine justice (grace and forgiveness) instead of human justice that souls are saved and people can begin turning their lives around. It’s pretty radical when you stop to think about it.