Saturday, October 29, 2011

A great post on Christians and capital punishment

My mom sent me a great link this morning. Ben Witherington has a simply outstanding essay on Christians and capital punishment, Why Capital Punishment is not such a Capital and Christian Idea. Ben takes on not only capital punishment but the use of violence by Christians of all stripes. In this essay., Ben properly distinguishes between the ethic of secular worldly government, the topic of Romans 13, and the Kingdom ethics of the Lamb who was slain while also recognizes that violence is incompatible with a life following Christ. Here is a portion:
Jesus did not tell his disciples, pick up your swords and follow me, he said pick up your crosses and follow me. And when in extremis two desperate disciples at the Last Supper said ‘we have two swords, we are ready to rumble’ Jesus’ response was ‘enough of this!’. Sadly they had not gotten the point after lo those many months of his teaching them the ethic of non-violence and forgiveness. And when one of them actually used a sword to try and prevent his capture, Jesus not only stopped such action dead in its tracks, he paused to heal the wounded servant, on his way to execution. Who lopped off the slave’s ear? The very person who asked Jesus about forgiveness (see below).

Jesus wanted no violence at all done in his name. It is not merely an irony, it is a disgrace that Christians later thought Jesus might endorse a Crusade or two. Those were some of the most shameful things ever done in the name of Christ, but of course, we could name much more recent examples from the Holocaust or the dark days of Apartheid in South Africa.

Christians still have a capacity for deafness when it comes to Jesus’ life ethic. Jesus you see was totally pro-life—- not just pro birth, pro life. And above all, he believed that justice, if we are talking life and death here, should be left in the hands of God. The Biblical message is clear— ‘vengeance is mine says the Lord, I will repay’.
These are hard words for many Christians today to swallow, so entranced we are with the lures and lusts of the world: property, country, our own lives. The world says rise up and defend what is yours, Jesus says give it all away and I will repay.

I yearn for more and more Christians to seek not a life of being a "good Christian" and instead pursue a life with a downward trajectory as a follower of Christ. There will be glory to spare in eternity, we who have that promise have no need of it today.


Aussie John said...


Ben's article is excellent.

The philosopher's comment was interesting, as he could not se the operative principle behind Christians having a particular constraint towards non-violence.

Spirit empowered eyes enable God's people to see what the world cannot, as the Spirit empowered person is enabled to do what the world deems impossible!

Arthur Sido said...


It often seems that we say we follow Jesus but in practice we try to help Him along instead of letting ourselves be conformed to Him.