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Striking a balance between justice and compassion

By Scott Tibbs, February 3, 2012

We are commanded to kill murderers, but those murderers are still children of God. How do we reconcile this?

As the South Carolina primary was approaching, John Fea attacked the Republican candidates for being "bloodthirsty" and said he was deeply disturbed by their disregard for human life.

There is no question that the Muslim terrorists who perpetrated 9/11 are evil. This was not simply an act of war against the United States that requires a military response, it was a war crime because the war criminals specifically targeted civilians for death. This was not collateral damage that is often and unfortunately unavoidable in war. This was a targeted assault on noncombatants. It was murder, and Jesus Christ commands that we execute murderers in Genesis 9:6. (Remember, Jesus Christ is the God of the Old Testament.)

But the reality is that Fea does raise a good point. In the book of Jonah, God commands His prophet to go to the city of Nineveh to call upon the Ninevites to repent of their wicked ways. Jonah flees from God. Why? Because Jonah was a patriot and Nineveh was a major city in the evil Assyrian Empire. When the Assyrians would lay siege to a city, the entire population of the city would often commit mass suicide rather than be captured by a wicked nation that took great pleasure in inflicting terrible tortures on the people they take prisoner.

When the Ninevites repented and God forgave them, Jonah pouted and whined. He wanted to see Nineveh destroyed, and who could blame him. But God reminded Jonah of the number of children in the city, not to mention the animals that would be killed in God's wrath.

So what is the lesson we are to take from this?

Government has been given the sword to protect the innocent. The government bears the sword through the criminal justice system to punish criminals. and government bears the sword through the military to defend against a nation's enemies. The use of that sword is not an option that governments may use; it is commandment directly from Jesus Christ that governments must follow.

We have seen historical examples of nations that have paid the price for weakness. Our failure to exterminate the warlords who committed war crimes against our troops in the Mogadishu Massacre encouraged Osama bin Laden that we were weak and was one of the factors that led to 9/11. The best known example of weakness was the Allies' refusal to stop Nazi Germany as they were getting stronger, leading to a much more costly war.

But what we cannot forget is that even when our enemies commit terrible atrocities against us, and no matter how just our response may be to hunt down and bring lethal justice to those responsible, our enemies are still created in the image of God and we should never take it lightly when we kill people. The humanity of our enemies should never be lost even as we wage war against them, and we must always wage war in a manner that honors our Father in Heaven.