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“Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot…” – Exodus 21:24 (NIV)
For those who like to quote from Exodus 21:24, and use the verse as their justification for all kinds of revenge, you might want to take a moment to look at its context.
For starters, Exodus 21 is related to physical injury for individuals and animals. It is not related in any way to insults, or other things for which we might want revenge.
Secondly, the Exodus passage is an example of talion law. Talion law is intended to make sure the punishment is appropriate to the crime. It insures not only that the penalty imposed for physical injury is appropriate to the nature of the injury; it also prohibits overly severe punishment that does not fit the crime.
Here, though, is the final blow to individuals who believe in and/or practice “eye for eye” justice. According to this law, the person who was injured neither decides the punishment nor carries it out. Those responsibilities are given to a judge.
Here is the responsibility given to us:
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. – Romans 12:19 (NIV)
As followers of Christ, we are never to seek revenge. If any vengeance is required, God will be both the judge and the one who carries out the sentence. When it comes to divine retribution, God has no need of either our help or our advice. We need to trust God and leave everything in his hands.
So, what part has God assigned us in all of this? Continuing the thought from verse 19:
On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.