Summary: Does the Scripture require that America "turn the other cheek" following the attacks of 9/11, or do we have the right to respond militarily?
The Story: Turn the Other Cheek
The mother of four young boys often had difficulty curbing their energy, especially in church. But when her minister preached on "turning the other cheek," the boys gave him their undivided attention. “No matter what others do to us,” he said, “we should never try to ‘get even.’”
That afternoon the youngest boy came into the house crying. Between sobs he said he’d kicked one of his brothers, who then kicked him in return.
"I’m sorry you’re hurt," his mother said. "But you shouldn’t go around kicking people."
Still choking back tears, he replied, "But the preacher said he isn’t supposed to kick me back." [Jane Vajnar, Tampa, Kansas. "Lite Fare," Christian Reader.]
12 days after this unimaginable act of violence, our reactions have begun to change a bit
Last week, there was shock, and grief; anger and fear
Much of the activities in life ground to a halt:
From Airline Service to the Stock Market to Professional Sports
Now, things are returning to some level of normalcy
As President Bush said Thursday night, “Our grief has turned to anger and anger to resolution.”
The resolutions that are being made are resolutions of war.
As Christians we’re familiar with the words of Jesus:
"You have heard that it was said, ’Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. ’But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. [NIV Matthew 5:38-40 39]
Many Christians are wondering, “Does Jesus’ teaching mean we retaliate against the perpetrators of this terrible massacre? Are we as a nation required to simply “turn the other cheek?” How do we apply Biblical principles in this situation?”
This morning, I hope to answer some of those questions.
Even if you can’t rattle off all 10 Commandments, you probably all know that one of them is “Thou shalt not kill.”
Well, that seems pretty cut and dried. If we are to obey God’s law, we cannot take the life of another.
But what about this:
The same law that says, “Thou shalt not kill,” also required that a person be put to death for committing certain offenses. These included: Adultery, Homosexual behavior, Kidnapping, Working on the Sabbath, Cursing one’s parents, and of course: murder.
But if the Bible says “Thou shalt not kill,” how can it also say, “Use the death penalty for these sins (some of which we would barely bat an eye over today.)
I think the answer is buried in the Hebrew language. Hebrew uses a different word to refer to “murder” and another for “death” or “execution.” That seems to be splitting hairs, but let’s think about it for a bit.
Murder is when an individual or even a group of individuals take it upon themselves to end someone’s life – regardless of their motive. Sometimes they argue they are seeking justice (vigilantism), but that is wrong. Individuals don’t have the right to do that. Governments do have the right – and even the responsibility – to provide justice.
Is there a difference between an individual killing another individual and the government putting someone to death for crimes committed? Some say there isn’t, but I disagree.
What are those differences?
We already talked about one: the difference between individuals acting on their own and appointed or elected rulers taking such action
Individuals don’t have the authority before God to take another’s life. The government does.
Another difference between murder and the death penalty is what we call “due process” That is, you have to provide indisputable evidence that the accused is actually guilty. You can’t just say, “I know he’s guilty, just kill him!” In our country, a person won’t be pronounced guilty if there is even a “reasonable doubt” he’s innocent.
Vigilantes are rarely as generous. Nor do they seek any evidence beyond their own opinions. No one should be put to death on the basis of someone’s opinion, but only on the basis of proven facts.
Due process is an effort to guarantee that only the truly guilty will be punished. Which is another difference between vigilantes and what God intended as a justice system within the government.
Let’s look at a specific case:
On April 19th 1995, Timothy McVeigh blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. 168 people died in that blast, including 19 children. Not long ago, McVeigh was put to death for an act which, until 12 days ago, was the worst terrorist act ever committed in this country.