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Forgiveness v. Justice… the point is Grace.

October 5th, 2006

Allahpundit over at HotAir has a good link to an article about one of the Amish girls being asked to be shot first, to give more time to her companions. Then as he is wont, goes on to post an excerpt to a post by John Podhoretz that cracks open the question of Forgiveness versus Justice. Two admirable qualities to uphold in a civilized society. The discussion proceeds in the comments, after Allah says:

Serious question: if it’s okay to turn the other cheek when it comes to child killers, why isn’t it okay when it comes to, say, Al Qaeda or Saddam Hussein? That inconsistency among hawkish Christians has always troubled me.

Or is it perfectly consistent, and I’m just missing something?

Which is a wonderful question, and the level at which that is posed comes down to Individuals versus Governments. Individuals can choose foregiveness, or go the extra mile and head towards Grace, when faced with harsh actions towards them by individuals. It seems that is the case with these small precious children that chose personal sacrifice over retaliation. The coments follows my thoughts, and Allah’s pushes back admirably. But I think he is overstressing a well missed aspect of what a Christian is, and how one bases their theology. He is stressing Jesus’ point of ‘turning the other cheek’ and basically boils Christianity into ‘following the words of Jesus,’ which might be a popular belief about Christianity, but in practice is hardly ever followed to that letter. In fact, Scriptures became codifed to ‘include’ the gospels (or Jesus’ sayings) because some hair-brained fellow decided to strip the scriptures down to ‘what Paul said, and a bit of Luke for context’.

But Christianity, is based on much of Pauline theology (and I’d argue, as I think Paul would, that is also Jesus’ theology) and so we can come to Romans 13 and here what Paul had to say as the purpose of governments. Their role in dealing out God’s justice upon those that are misbehaving. That point is brought up tagentially in the comments, as is Aquinas’ Just War thoughts, but Allah keeps pressing on with the, that doesn’t mesh with the Sermon on the Mount stuff. Which I gather is the point. Not all things can be boiled down to the key phrases of the SotM. If anything the sermon on the mount is a commentary on Moses’ law, and pointing out that for every fence built by the ‘teachers of the law’ the law can be extended to fence those people right back into the ‘sinner’ category. The Sermon on the Mount is an exercise in telling us that we ALL fall short, we ALL need foregiveness, and most importantly, we all NEED grace. For the key to the kingdom of heaven isn’t some moral olympics, but the acceptance of a confessed and penitent sinner, that realizes they’ll never jump high enough to reach God.

So while the ‘consistency’ of ‘turn-the-other-cheek’ vs. ‘just-war’ is lacking, that is the point. We are lacking. That is why Christ paid our price, hung on a tree, and died, so God could redeem us all to himself.


ADDED: And if AP reads this: How does a brother get the right to post to comments at HotAir?

  1. October 5th, 2006 at 21:55 | #1

    I’m not AP, but you had to register to be a commenter at HotAir when they first started. They only had registration open one day. You could email Allah and ask him to let you register. I’ve heard of a couple of ppl who have done that.

  2. Debbi
    October 6th, 2006 at 08:11 | #2

    Okay, I’m going to make this simple.

    If my son does something wrong, and in the process screams at me, “I HATE YOU!!” will I forgive him? Yes. Will I still love him? Yes. Will it hurt? Yes. Will I be angry? Yes. Will he be disciplined? Most definitely. But will I forgive him? Yes.
    In God’s eyes there are no “levels” of sin, as opposed to our justice system which has categorized crime and created “degrees” of heinousness. I am just as equal and “bad” a sinner as Roberts is/was, and Jesus still loved me enough to forgive me. If God extended that kind of forgiveness to me, how can I not extend that kind of forgiveness to others? Is it hard? Yes. But is there anything about being Christlike that is easy? If there were, would we need to depend on God?

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