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Lex Talionis and Easter

Pray like this: “Our Father in heaven, let your name be treated with reverence, let your kingdom come, let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven….”  Matthew 6: 9-10   [Jesus of Nazareth circa 30 AD]


States Members, elected by Jersey folk, pray this prayer – as instructed by Jesus (see above) – every time they meet.


And at most funerals it is prayed by those attending.......


“Let your will be done on earth ...” That’s a dangerous prayer – very dangerous. Very dangerous because I need to be very, very sure that the will of the Father of the LORD Jesus Christ is indeed what I want.


Lex Talionis is the will of the Father. How so? Well, Jesus made it abundantly clear that it was his Father who was (is) the LORD whose name appears on almost every page of the Old Testament in the Christian Bible. And those writings on the “Old Testament” are the written archives of the people of his people Israel (loosely the Jews) over a period of 2,000 + years.


So the will of the Father – the will that States Members and Jersey folk are regularly asking should be done on earth – is, in part, the Lex Talionis.


Lex = law; Talionis = just retribution. The basis for this is part of the jurisprudence set out by the LORD when his people (all 1.5 million of them) were on their way from demeaning slavery in Egypt to establish themselves in the LORD’s Promised Land around 1350 BC. If one person in this brand new jurisdiction seriously harmed another “then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”


The principle was not used to enable the judge actually to appy the punishment. Instead, it was to be used to enable the judge to assess the maximum permitted punishment.

We follow this principle in many of Jersey’s enactments – the laws decided upon by States Members. When an offence has been described the Law goes on to state the maximum penalty that may be imposed by the Jersey court when a person has been found guilty of that particular offence.


Why then is it so very dangerous to pray that the Father’s will be done on earth?


One example. There are thousands of others. States Members, after praying that Lex Talionis will apply on earth may shortly permit internet gaming from Jersey – knowing that many others far, far away from here (but still on earth) will inevitably be damaged by it. And very often there will be no support for such damaged folk in the places where they live. (But Jersey will be rich.) If the persons we call “problem gamblers” commit suicide over it – then the maximum penalty Lex Talionis will be the death sentence.


What about the fact that we shall pray the prayer, the “Our Father”, knowing that we shall personally benefit from internet gambling? That’s why some Jersey folk say: not in our name. Don’t do this for us.


But, quite apart from internet gambling, when I point at others three of my fingers are pointing at me. What about the damage I personally have done? More particularly, what about the damage to others arising from my omissions? It’s very clear: the damage that I have done to another will be the maximum penalty that the LORD, “My Father”, could demand of me.


How many of these “maximum penalties” have accrued against me thus far in my life? How much is the total possible penalty against me? What is now the total penalty that I am still praying to receive, albeit as a maximum?


Has Easter got something to do with this sword of Damocles over me? After all, at the first Easter this same Jesus prayed a prayer for others. It was, “Father, forgive....”
How can I be included in that prayer? Only by praying, as he taught, “Our Father ... Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” and then following this Jesus.
 ‘Without justice what are kingdoms but great banditries?’ (Augustine of Hippo, Christian Theologian, 354-430)
‘Justice always makes mercy dumb when sin has made the sinner deaf.’ (Thomas Brooks, English preacher and writer, 1608-1680)
Richard Syvret

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