An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.Gandhi
I was working on a lesson for last night’s Bible study. The topic was what the book of Proverbs says about “REVENGE.” I wanted to open by bringing quotes from historical people on the subject, and boy did I have to whittle down the list! I found quotes from Marcus Aurelius (Roman Emperor and Stoic Philosopher late 2nd Century), William Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, and Sir Francis Bacon.
But the one that intrigued me most came from Mahatma Gandhi.
He is referencing Leviticus 24:19-20 which states, “If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him.” This is part of the civil code set forth before the Hebrew people by Moses to maintain order; not a mandate for revenge.
Or perhaps Gandhi was doing a Biblical reflection upon the writings of the Apostles Paul and Peter which direct and remind the Christians in the early church to not repay evil for evil. (Romans 12:17-19, 1 Thessalonians 5:15, and 1 Peter 3:8-11).
Or maybe perhaps he was quoting and expounding upon the words of Jesus who taught us not to avenge ourselves: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” Matthew 5:38-42
Of course, if you want to see the results of pursuing an eye for an eye to its fullest and ending up blind, you need only look to another Indian: Khan Noonien Singh! Oh, you don’t remember who that is? Let me refresh your memory with pictures, and some quotes from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn
“He tasks me. He tasks me and I shall have him. I’ll chase him round the moons of Nibia and round the Antares maelstrom and round Perdition’s flames before I give him up.”
“Ah, Kirk, my old friend, do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us “Revenge is a dish that is best served cold?” It is very cold…in space.”
“Surely I have made my meaning plain. I mean to avenge myself upon you, Admiral. I’ve deprived your ship of power and when I swing round I mean to deprive you of your life. But I wanted you to know first who it was who had beaten you.”
“I’ve done far worse than kill you. I’ve hurt you. And I wish to go on… hurting you. I shall leave you as you left me. As you left her. Marooned for all eternity in the center of a dead planet…buried alive…buried alive!”
My personal favorite are his last words in the movie when Kahn quotes Captain Ahab’s dying words from Moby Dick…
“No Kirk…the game’s not over…to the last I will grapple with thee… Now… Now… You can’t get away… From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee! For hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee…”