I recently came across this article at Cnn.com: Woman Blinded By Acid Wants Same Fate For Attacker. The article explains that a woman in Iran was brutally attacked and blinded by a man who threw acid at her. The man was convicted of the crime and the victim asked the court to give to him as punishment the pouring of acid into his eyes. The victim is reported to say, ". . . I want an eye for an eye . . . people like him should be made to feel my suffering." An Iranian court granted her request.
This idea appears in the Bible in three places: Exodus 21:23-24, Leviticus 24:19-20, and Deuteronomy 19:21. Clearly all references are in the Old Testament, but what is their point. The concept behind an eye for an eye is quite simple. It is the law of retribution and equivalency. The perpetrator should endure what it is that they did to someone else. Surprisingly though, the law was intended to limit the punishment of the perpetrator. The perpetrator could not be punished beyond the crime they committed. For instance, they could not be put to death for anything less than killing someone. The law worked against the human tendency to want to punish someone by having them endure even greater pain and suffering than their victim.
In a portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:38-48, he says, "You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. ‘But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also . . ."You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven . . ." Jesus’ comments call all victims of any evil to rise above the evil perpetrated against them. There is a much greater emphasis on the potential restoration of the perpetrator than on the need for retribution for the victim.
Contrast the reaction of the acid victim above with the reaction of the mother in this story: Victim’s Mother Urges Death Penalty Repeal. After sharing the story of her daughter’s murder she concludes about the killer, "I don’t want him to be suffering."
How do two people come to such different places in their journey through grief, revenge, reconciliation, and restoration? What difference has Jesus and the Kingdom of God made?