Balal (in Iran) was at the brink of losing his life when the mother of Abdollah Hosseinzadeth, the person he stabbed some years ago, approached, slapped him in the face and then decided to forgive her son’s killer.
It was told that seven years ago Balal, who is in his 20s, stabbed Abdollah Hosseinzadeh during a street brawl in the small town of Royan, in the northern province of Mazandaran. In a literal application of qisas, the sharia law of retribution, the victim’s family were to participate in Balal’s punishment by pushing the chair on which he stood. The big surprise was that the victim’s family did the contrary. Instead of avenging their son’s death, the couple decided to forgive their son’s killer at the last minute. They spared the life of their son’s killer. This news was welcomed by people around the world and I believe there are some lessons we can learn from it as Christians.
How many Christians can do what the victim’s family did?
The Law of Retribution
Quite a lot of people (Christians) believe that people should face the consequences of their evil deeds. In the case of Balal, such people would have argued that he deserved death because he killed. Some quote this scripture to buttress their point: “You must impose on the accuser the sentence he intended for the other person. In this way, you will purge such evil from among you. Then the rest of the people will hear about it and be afraid to do such an evil thing. You must show no pity for the guilty! Your rule should be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”(Deuteronomy 19:19-21, NLT).
The New Law: Forgiveness
We were condemned to death but One Man decided to sacrifice his life for us. In John 15:13, Jesus said “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. He went through hostility from man so that you and I can be set free. Even on the Cross, he prayed for forgiveness for those who had crucified him. This was the life of Jesus and he has commanded us to love one another.
God showed you mercy when you least deserved. He forgives you when you deliberately do something wrong. When people condemned you, He stood by you. He loves you so much that he sent his dear son, Jesus, to die in your place. And now, he wants you to love your neighbour by forgiving them when they sin against you. When I read the news article about Abdollah Hosseinzadeh’s death, I felt the pains his family went through in 2007. Society would have judged them right for Balal’s death but they chose to let him live. I could imagine Hosseinzadeth’s mother telling Balal’s mum (in my own words) that “I know how it feels to lose a son. I have been there and I know it hurts. I can’t afford to put you through that situation. I have forgiven your son though it is not easy”
“Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD.” (Romans 12:19, NLT).
Let us learn to forgive when it hurts most. Look around you today; Is there anyone you have to forgive? That person might have lied about you, disgraced you, insulted you, killed your relative or friend, abused you, destroyed your properties, witnessed against you, etc. Let us forgive one another just as God in Christ has also forgiven us. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to say “Forgive us our debt as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Jesus concludes by saying “For if you forgive other their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
I will close with this:
“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile,carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.” (Matthew 5:38-42, NLT)