It’s a dangerous things for some politicians to talk about the Bible in public. In the book of Exodus, we’re told, “But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”
The impetus behind this command is to ensure that whenever someone has committed a wrong, the penalty will not be greater than the wrong that was committed. In our day, we refer to the principle as making sure the punishment fits the crime.
That scripture came into play yesterday—sort of—in a mangled way when Donald Trump was asked if he had a favorite Bible verse that had helped shape his character and life. His response, if you can follow the flow of his thought, was,
When we get into the Bible, I think many, so many. Look, an eye for an eye, you can almost say that. That’s not a particularly nice thing.
If you look at what’s happening to our country, when you see what’s going on with our country, how people are taking advantage of us and how they scoff at us and laugh at us and laugh at our face. They’re taking our jobs, they’re taking our money, they’re taking the health of our country. We have to be very firm and we have to be very strong, and we can learn a lot from the Bible, that I can tell you.
Okay. Tell me again, how does that scripture passage fit here? What I see is someone who is focused on how others treat us badly and the implication is to get back at them for doing so. Well, while that does incorporate some kind of “justice,” it’s not the context of the passage, and certainly not the spirit of it.
Keep in mind, this is the candidate who says he reads the Bible more than anyone. If I were you, though, I wouldn’t trust his insights into Scripture.
During Jesus’ time, there were people who understood this passage from Exodus in a Trump-like manner also. Jesus wisely redirected their thoughts by saying,
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 anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.
Jesus made a personal application here as a corrective. Too many people were using that Old Testament call for proper justice as an excuse for getting back at others who they felt had wronged them. Jesus focused on the heart attitude.
Can anyone reading these words today say that Donald Trump has ever exhibited, in this long campaign season, any inclination to manifest this spirit of setting aside perceived wrongs? Can anyone point to a pattern of behavior that shows he has the willingness to go the extra mile for others, even if they have caused him harm—“harm” interpreted loosely?
Or have we instead been inundated with one insult and tantrum after another?
It’s well past the time to bring this sad spectacle to an end. But that’s up to the voters in the Republican party. Pray that they will be wise from this point on.