Because of the Law of Moses, the Jews had a number of peculiar customs. One such custom dealt with criminal punishment: the guilty couldn’t be lashed more than forty times. To make sure they didn’t go over this, ancient Jews would always do one less, no matter how guilty the offender. The apostle Paul referred to this in 2 Cor. 11:24, saying, “I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes,” also translated as “forty stripes save one.”
Humane treatment of the guilty was directly from the law of God. In Deuteronomy 25:3, after the judge finds a man guilty, “He may beat him forty times but no more, lest he beat him with many more stripes than these, and your brother be degraded in your eyes.”
All believers should give serious thought to whether our society properly considers this principle today regarding the guilty. But even if the worldly treat others oppressively and with contempt, those instructed by the law of God must not.
Since the Law of Moses protected even the guilty from degradation and humiliation in their brethren’s eyes, how much more should the gracious law of Christ teach us to generously treat each another? D
Does this only apply to those guilty of breaking laws? Does it not also apply to those who have crossed us, disappointed us, or that we might for some reason view as beneath us? There is no place in the gospel system for humiliating and degrading treatment of anyone, guilty or not.