But the body politic has the right to preserve and to protect. It holds no grudge and harbours no enmity towards the murderer, but chooses to imprison or punish him solely to ensure the protection of others. The purpose is not revenge but a punishment through which the body politic is protected. Otherwise, were both the victim’s heirs and the community to forgive and return good for evil, the wrongdoers would never cease their onslaught and a murder would be committed at every moment—nay, bloodthirsty individuals would, like wolves, entirely destroy the flock of God. The body politic is not prompted by ill will in meting out its punishment; it acts without prejudice and does not seek to gratify a sense of vengeance. Its purpose in inflicting the punishment is to safeguard others and to prevent the future commission of such vile actions. (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, 2014 ed., p. 77)
To me, this quote is about justice. In an earlier translation the word “body politic” was “community”, which seems clearer. What this suggests is that it’s my job as a victim to forgive and return good for evil and the community’s job to imprison and protect. The community imprisons and punishes evil-doers, not out of revenge or enmity, but to protect others and prevent more wrong-doing.
In the past, grudges were held for centuries and passed down from one generation to another, and punishments given out of revenge and vengeance. Even today, many employees in penal institutions treat prisoners badly because they don’t deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. When I remember to leave justice in the hands of the Institutions and trust God to deal with those who have hurt me, I am free to forgive and move on with my life.
Knowing that I’m not responsible for justice, I am grateful!
What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation? I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!
If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Letting Go of Anger and Bitterness