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Forgiveness vs the ‘eye for eye’ law

Atheists and agnostics like to point to inconsistencies in the Bible as a way of discrediting Christianity.

One that surfaces from time to time is the difference between the Old Testament law that spoke of an eye for eye justice (Exodus 21:24), and how it starkly contrasts Jesus’ statements in the New Testament that we are to love and forgive our enemies (Matthew 5:38-39).

While Moses demanded a harsh form of justice, Jesus demanded forgiveness.

These two ideas seem irreconcilable.

Well, there is a simple explanation for this, and we see it playing out in a recent court case involving the death of a Minnesota pastor, Verlyn Strenge, 69, who was killed by a drunk driver in Nov. 2020.

Strenge was pastoring the First Baptist church in Clearbrook, when he was rear-ended by David Nelson, who had a blood alcohol level of .267 and was travelling at nearly 70 mph when he smashed in to the back of the pastor’s car. The speed limit was 30 mph.

The collision killed Pastor Strenge and critically injured his wife.

But a strange thing unfolded in Nelson’s court case on Nov 14, 2021, when Strenge’s family and members of the congregation testified that they had forgiven Nelson.

Strenge’s daughter, Jayme Nelson, told the court:

We forgive you, Mr. Nelson. As hard as it was at first, we want you to know that we have been praying for you for the past year because we know your life has been impacted by the biggest mistake of your life.”

Christian Headlines noted that these expressions of forgiveness impacted both the prosecutor, who was brought to tears, and the judge, who stated he had never heard anything like this before in his court.

After Nelson was sentence to three years imprisonment for vehicular homicide, Pastor Strenge’s family, wife, daughter, and son, then hugged Nelson stating they had forgiven him and would be praying for him. They also expressed hope that Nelson would be able to forgive himself.

And this is exactly how the Bible saw such events playing out.

Because the Old Testament developed a system of laws that would govern a nation, while Jesus was speaking to the hearts of the individual, how we personally need to forgive those who have offended us.

So while the Strenge’s family forgave, the government still needed to hand out justice for the crime.

READ: Family of Pastor Killed in Car Accident Forgives Drunk Driver during Court Hearing

Many criticize the Old Testament Law because it demanded the death sentence for such things as adultery and the cutting off of a person’s hand, if you damaged someone else’s hand.

In fact, it didn’t and as I explain in my first podcast, even stranger, eye for an eye was actually the basis for Christ’s teaching that we need to love our neighbours as ourselves.

1 | How an eye for an eye means you love your neighbour as yourself

1 Comment

  1. Well done on your first podcast. The combination of stories and content works. I had always thought that an eye-for-an-eye was a call for vengeance – not recompense. This opens my eyes to a broader truth. Thank you.


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