Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Esther 7-10: What to do With Your Enemies

I read a few hours ago that John Muhammed, the "D. C. sniper," was put to death this morning. Someone on an online message board, writing to express his opposition to capital punishment, said, "What did this solve? His victims are still dead." Others on the message board quickly responded with satisfaction that a cold-blooded killer, a man who had slain innocent strangers, had now received his just reward.

I don't want to get into the capital punishment debate on this blog. It is indeed a complex issue, and while I have my personal opinions, I doubt I could do the issue justice here. But I would like to point out that there is a fundamental, God-given desire for justice in the human heart. Left to its own devices, unchecked by the balance of love, that hunger for justice can devolve into a hateful yearning for vengeance. On the other hand, there are those who rightly stand up for freedom against the possibility of an all-powerful state, who argue that state-sanctioned killing makes us all guilty of the blood of our fellow man.

It seems obvious to me that God created human governments in part so that evil could be punished. Read Romans 13 sometime, where Paul reminds us that God gave the king a sword for a reason, and so the power of the state must be respected. But then read Jesus' challenging words in the Sermon on the Mount, and we're reminded that while God uses the state to stamp out injustice, in interpersonal relationships, we are called to respond to hatred with love, to violence with peace, to enemies with friendship.

That's not easy to do. Even if we're promised that our enemies will get their just desserts in this life or the next, it's awfully sacrificial to let go of our need for personal vengeance against those who have hurt us. Yet if we have faith in the God who loves us, we will do exactly that.

What does this have to do with Esther? For three weeks now, we have seen an insidious plot formed against the people of God. We have seen two brave, godly people in Esther and Mordecai stand up boldly for innocent lives. If you've never read the story, you may wonder how all of this is going to end. Come this Sunday, and you will see how God equips and allows us to defend ourselves, while never endorsing personal He assures us that there will be justice, but leaves open the possibility that something even greater will happen to our enemies...redemption.

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