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|The Right To Retaliate||10/09/2003|
Jesus Christ was not a violent man. Even when unjustly taken before the Roman court, He did not defend himself. Instead, He allowed them to crucify Him for crimes He did not commit. So how is it that most Christians in America feel justified when America goes after evil dictators? How can President Bush, who openly professes Christianity, defend Israel's retaliatory strikes in the Palestinian territories and now in Syria?
This is a tough question.
Most Christians, and most Americans, believe in self-defense (despite Christ's apparent choice to not defend himself); but when we extend it to "pre-emptive" actions on foreign soil, the justification becomes less sure. Though we believe it is necessary, we don't always know how to reconcile our Christianity with our gut feeling.
In the first chapter of Romans, the Bible clearly teaches that God reveals His character in creation. Indeed, God's nature can been seen in the human body. When destructive cells, bacteria or germs invade our bodies, white blood cells and other protective agents begin to capture, control and destroy them. This proactive self-defense is natural and healthy.
Any farmer can tell you that in order to have a healthy crop, the weeds and the pests must be rooted out or pushed out. Again, God's nature is revealed through creation. He does not force Himself upon us, but He does give us the authority to deal with destructive elements forcefully and decisively. It is proper and right to capture, control or destroy evildoers before they reach their full potential for harm.
Those who do right have nothing to fear from America. Those who deal in terror should tremble. If they want to be free from fear, then they must do cease threatening and attacking those who live in freedom. The military and the government exist to protect the innocent and punish criminals. We do not bear the sword without reason.
Two biblical examples provide further insight into the nature of God. They should also bolster the confidence of America in her fight against evil.
The first is the often-told story of David and Goliath in the Old Testament. The Philistine army was marching across the land, slaughtering innocent tribes and terrorizing the people. At the battlefront, Goliath defied God's followers and demanded a fight. The people were terrified. But God sent David to meet the enemy where he stood and kill him. David did not negotiate, he did not wait for Goliath to enter his hometown; instead, he met him in his place, knocked him down and cut off his head! David was the only capable and willing person to face the enemy.
The modern similarities are startling. God's followers, both Christian and Jew, along with all people who hold freedom dear, are being pursued by bands of murderers. There is only one country fully capable and willing to face this enemy. So America meets the enemy where they stand (or hide), stops them, captures them and, when necessary, destroys them.
However, Old Testament mentality, especially violence, takes on more allegorical meaning in light of the New Testament. One could argue that such warfare now occurs on a spiritual level, not a physical one. Indeed, the point has merit and Christians should get on their knees every day in spiritual warfare and ask God to deliver us from evil.
By looking at a story Jesus Christ told, we can see an interesting relationship between forgiveness and vengeance. These two attributes of God are not contrary, but rather two sides of the same coin.
There was a king, Jesus tells us, who wanted to settle the accounts of his servants. One servant could not pay and begged the king for mercy. The king took pity on the servant, canceled the debt and let him go.
When that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him money. The fellow servant begged for mercy, but the first servant had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the king heard what had happened, he called the servant in, berated him for his lack of mercy, and turned him over to the jailers, who tortured him until he paid everything back.
The story ends with Jesus saying, "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."
Here we see both forgiveness and vengeance. Jesus Christ's sacrifice for us provides the ultimate forgiveness. But for those who do not forgive others there is only the wrath of God. And indeed many Arabs have no forgiveness for perceived debts on the part of America and their ancestral brothers in Israel.
Interestingly, the king did not punish the wicked servant directly. He had his governmental staff -- the jailers -- torture the man. Today, God does not strike down individuals where they stand. Instead, He allows our government's military institutions to carry out vengeance on those who terrorize.
For decades now, America and the rest of the world have pursued a path of mercy and peace, but some refuse to follow. As long as the enemy targets the innocent -- whether at the World Trade Center or at a Haifa restaurant -- America will continue to support retaliation against those who partake in these crimes, regardless of their location.
At the same time, we pray for the day when our enemies abandon their destructive ways so that mercy and peace may prevail.