I guess it’s about time I weigh in on what everybody is talking about. The recent demise of a well-known terrorist leader has brought dancing in the streets in some quarters while others are questioning whether we should be rejoicing at the taking of human lives.
What I am referring to is the recent raid on a terrorist stronghold in Pakistan resulting in the death of the terrorist leader hunted by our government since 2001. Here a man who was responsible for the death of thousands was finally located and justice was done according to most sources. I’m not questioning the facts as they have been given to us, I’ll leave that to the news commentators. What concerns me are the divisions beginning to arise in the Body of Christ as we react to this news. Some of us rejoice that this wicked person has been sent to Hell. Some of us are not sure that the taking of human life is ever justified. Then there are those of us who are simply happy that a person who has continuously plotted against U.S. citizens has been stopped.
The question that is brought to my mind is, whether this was an act of justice or vengeance. Indeed is there a separation between the two or is justice just another way of expressing vengeance? The answer to this is found in the idea of law. Man has agreed for the most part to be governed by law. Law is established that sets just punishments for the violation of each point of the law. Without this, societal living breaks down into chaos. If we are to function as a society, we must have law. While terrorists do not respect the laws of our country, they do subject themselves to them to it when they attack our citizens. Without this assumption, our nation cannot effectively operate alongside
other nations in the world.
However, there are those Christians who point out that this is the age of Grace, not Law, and as such we should not seek vengeance, especially not death, for those who do us harm. The problem of this point of view is that it does not take an accurate consideration of what Grace is. Grace is when God gives us forgiveness for our wrongdoings on the basis of the blood shed on the Cross by Jesus to satisfy God’s demands of a holy and just God. We who have accepted this Grace are then forgiven by Grace and have been given the power to live by Grace (Ephesians 2:8-10). Law has none effect for the believer in this: we will not enter the condemnation of the Law because we will not come in conflict with the law Galatians 5: 22 ff), because when we live by Grace we will obey the law. However, it is when we do not live by Grace, but rather by our old flesh that we violate the laws of God and man and are subject to the consequences.
Civil law has been given to govern the lives of men. While God forgives the penitent sinner, there is still the law of man to reckon with. Without such law man cannot be governed. Is it just to require a killer to pay for that crime with his own life? The Bible says so. In fact, the death penalty was to be given in more cases than murder alone. Why should we expect the rules to have changed since
Old Testament times? Consider the thief on the cross next to Jesus who repented and was promised Paradise. This man was forgiven by God but still had to pay the penalty exacted by the laws of men.
We must not confuse Grace with leniency. Our sins are forgiven but at a great great cost—the death of our Savior, Jesus Christ. God, since He is a just God, cannot excuse sin. Those who are saved are so because we are identified with Christ Who died on our behalf. To excuse the sins of men is to cheapen our estimation of what Jesus did for us.
And so we are asked, “Are men today under Law or Grace? But before you answer that one, consider this: No one is under Grace unless he chooses grace by accepting Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Without Grace we are subject to the Law. Unbelievers refuse Grace, therefore are not living by grace. Believers who violate the laws of man are not living by grace either. As a result, those
violating man’s law, believers and non-believers alike are are subject to that law.
What about the taking of human life? In this, let’s appeal to the rules of fairness. Is it fair to expect that a man who takes a human life should forfeit his own? Is it fair to expect that a person who is defending himself, his family or his country cannot use deadly force. How can we as Christians oppose laws based on the ideas of fairness that have been implanted in every man?
So in conclusion, concerning the issue at hand, I cannot rejoice that another sinner has entered Hell, in fact that grieves me. I however, can rejoice if justice of the law has been done, for it is this justice that enables us to have order in this world.