“An eye for an eye…” is biblical and is meant as a limit for the revenge that might be sought, when those words are included in what God delivers to Moses on Mount Sinai. In Exodus 21, the verse actually begins “If any harm follows, then you shall give a life for a life…” The same thinking is also found in Leviticus 24. “Anyone who kills a human being shall be put to death.”
When Jesus mentions the same verse in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:38-42) he suggests there are better responses to a real or perceived wrong than “an eye for an eye…or a life for a life.”
During Holy Week I read Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. Stevenson is an attorney who founded the Equal Justice Initiative, “a legal practice dedicated to defending the poor, the wrongly condemned, and those trapped in the furthest reaches of our criminal justice system.”
The book made me think about capital punishment, and whether or not it is ever “just” punishment. More importantly, it made me more aware of the politicization of at least some behaviors, policies, and procedures in some states’ criminal justice systems.
Unlike some groups’ protests that seem to me to have little or no real focus, or that seem to never accept the likely guilt of the person whose mistreatment or death they “protest,” Bryan works within the legal system to try and right wrongs where poor people or members of various minority groups have not received justice, or due process.
The stories he tells are compelling, and made me think.
I commend the book.