Would you to do me a favor? Please go find one of your children, a younger brother or sister, your husband/ wife, or any other person you have a particular affinity to. Look them in the eye and get a good reminder of why you love them so much. I offer you this scenario for your consideration;
That dear loved one of yours has fallen away from the church, from Jesus, from you, and everything else good and right in their life. They have been seduced by the world and all its promises. They have become so disenchanted and deceived by the dark powers of this world that it has plunged them into a depressive state; a state so cold and unforgiving that they have decided to act out against this world. They have forgotten about redemption because nobody has offered it to them. They have been so victimized, abused, and offended that they see no escape but to inflict that same pain upon the world that has so mistreated them. This person who you have such a heart for has devised a way to kill one million people, good people, with a simple push of a button. They have barricaded themselves inside your house and are moments away from ending the lives of those one million undeserving innocent people. Outside your house, among the negotiators and SWAT members, a sniper has just received the order to take the only shot he has, a fatal shot, and to do it immediately. In a second, one of your own children will be laying on the floor of your house surrounded by their own blood, a bullet having pierced their heart, the only shot the sniper had. Would you order anyone to take the shot to kill your child?
I ask this because God views each and every one of us broken, sinful human beings here in His house, on earth, in that same way. That is why I see no justification in taking another human’s life. That person, whether I like it or not, is a child of God who has been mislead by this cruel world into despair and moral poverty, just as I was. In their sin, I am reminded of my own. Jesus saved me from death, just as He asks me to spare others from the same sentence. Let us forfeit retribution (as He has done us), and focus on a proactive, preventative love; let’s cultivate spiritual health instead of simply treating the illness. Like practicing good gardening instead of just zapping the weeds, or better nutrition instead of constantly dieting…
As I looked down my rifle’s scope so many times in Iraq, I was blinded by the plank in my own eye. The enemy is not terrorists, or even terror. Evil is not found in Muslims or even in Islam. It is no more these things than it was Rome two thousand years ago. The enemy that we have been blinded to so quickly is our own sin. The Jews of Jesus’ day made the same mistake; they were waiting for a temporal freedom from the oppressive Romans, but were unable to see that it was their own transgressions that enslaved them. While they waited for the militaristic messiah, they missed the Messiah who came to free them from the true slavery that held them captive – personal sin! I believe Jesus asks us all to see others not as our own eyes see them, but as He sees them; as lovable children who are desperately in need of God’s grace. Just as I am sure you see your children, so God looks upon His own; with the same gentle reverence and compassion. Thomas Merton wrote;
“If [we] can trust and love God, Who is infinitely wise and Who rules the lives of men, permitting them to use their freedom even to the point of almost incredible abuse, [we] can love men who are evil. [We] can learn to love them even in their sin, as God has loved them. If we can love the men we cannot trust (without trusting them foolishly) and if we can to some extent share the burden of their sin by identifying ourselves with them, then perhaps there is some hope of a kind of peace on earth, based not on the wisdom and the manipulations of men but on the inscrutable mercy of God.”
To anyone who asks me that timeless question regarding ‘justified violence,’ I will eternally answer the same; I will not condemn anyone. Death is condemnation. I will not do to others what has not been done to me (John 8:10-11). It is only because I trust in God that I will never act against other men, no matter how poorly they act against me or the people I love. When I am before the throne of judgment, I hope to be judged just as I have judged here on earth; hopefully with unceasing mercy and compassion. Please pray for me as I go to Israel; the last delegation to go to the West Bank was stoned by Israeli youth. After two weeks in Hebron with Palestinian families (who are ostracized by the Jews to an extraordinary degree), I will be staying with various Jewish settler families in the occupied territories, where I will face harassment from Palestinians for sympathizing with the Jews… and the cycle may continue when I return home.