Welcome to the first edition of Bible in the News for the year 2007.
Well, during the last week there can be little doubt as to what the top story has been. The execution of Saddam Hussein has dominated the news, with pictures of the ex-leader of Iraq standing on the gallows with the hangman’s rope being placed upon his neck. Many have wondered whether it was necessary to display the graphic details of his last moments to the world quite like this, and so there has been some debate about it. Some see Saddam's death in terms of justice done. Others have taken it a step further, rejoicing in vengeance and seemingly taking pleasure in the death of the dictator. But then others again have sought to make political mileage out of the event and the pictures, in their campaign against the death penalty in the interests of what is called "human rights."
What is the right attitude in these matters? What is God's mind on it?
The mind of God is revealed to us through His word in the Bible. The GENERAL principle is that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23), and certainly the Law of God given through Moses prescribed the death penalty in many cases as can be readily seen from a reading of Exodus 21. Adultery, incest, homosexual acts, bestiality as well as murder, were all punishable by death under God's Law. This is clear in the book of Leviticus.
But God also says through the prophet Ezekiel that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. This is what we read in Ezekiel 33:11.
"Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?"
Also he says much the same thing in Ezekiel 18:32, and again in 2 Peter 3:9.
Now whilst recognizing these Divine principles, it is difficult to absolve someone who has been a mass-murderer like Hitler, or his accomplice Adolf Eichmann--or like the individual in question--Saddam Hussein. It does not appear that true Christianity offers an escape clause for such people--for people who show no remorse or repentance whatsoever.
A remarkable article in the Jerusalem Post addressed this issue on December 31st. I will read some lengthy extracts to you. The heading was: "The Pope and the Holocaust Deniers."
"Saddam Hussein's execution reminded us that some crimes are so heinous no society can tolerate them, and that when you murder more than one million people, even traditional opponents of the death penalty might just applaud when you hang.
"It is a lesson the Catholic Church would do well to contemplate. Last week, the church broke ranks with nearly every moral voice and came out publicly against Saddam's execution. But if that were not enough, Pope Benedict XVI granted a private audience to a delegation of Iranian officials, led by Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki, whose ministry sponsored the recent Holocaust denial conference in Teheran.
"The pope is the foremost spiritual leader on earth. It shocks every moral sensibility that he would choose to legitimize a wretch like this. More troubling yet, the pope conveyed warm greetings to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad through the delegation. "Warm greetings? Ahmadinejad is calling virtually every week for Israel's annihilation. Does the pope have anything to share with this man aside from his contempt?..”
The article continues:
"LET'S NOT finesse this. Ahmadinejad is an international abomination who can lay strong claim to being the single most hate-filled man alive. Surely the pope can find more worthy recipients of his time and graciousness?
"Pope John Paul II was a man of great courage who helped to challenge and defeat communism. Yet even he made the repeated mistake of legitimizing terrorists, repeatedly meeting with Yasser Arafat. But if one might excuse those meetings on the grounds that other world leaders did the same, the pope's actions at the time of Arafat's death were jarring and incomprehensible.
He praised Arafat as "a leader of great charisma who loved his people and sought to lead them toward national independence. May God welcome in His mercy the soul of the illustrious deceased and give peace to the Holy Land."
"Did anyone seriously believe that God was going to welcome this baby-killer into heaven..."
The writer in the Jerusalem Post continues:
“It bespeaks an unfortunate and continuing pattern on behalf of our Christian brethren to refuse to hate evil. Many of my Christian brothers and sisters mistakenly believe that God forbids hatred. They quote Jesus' teaching to turn the other cheek and his admonishment to love your enemies as proof that we dare never hate..."
The article continues:
“But this is a travesty of Jesus' teachings. It would make this great Hebrew personality into someone who had contempt for his victims as he extended love to their murderers. Jesus advocated turning the other cheek to petty slights and affronts to honor, not to mass graves and torture chambers.
"Likewise, while Jesus taught that we ought to love our own enemies, this did not apply to God's enemies. Our enemies are people who take our parking spot or who are our rivals for a promotion at work. God's enemies are those who slaughter his children..."
The writer then makes this point:
“To love evil is itself evil, and constitutes a passive form of complicity. We are all known by the company we keep. If Ahmadinejad of Iran called for the extermination of all the world's Catholics, the pope might think twice before meeting his representatives...”
The article concludes by saying that the pope ought to accord the same respect to the Jews.
Scripture teaches us to hate evil--and you may want to look at the following passages: Psalm 97:10; Proverbs 8:13; Amos 5:15; Micah 3:2.
And it is in the Revelation that Jesus himself tells us that he HATES a certain class of people who embody hateful doctrines and deeds. Look at Revelation 2:6 & 15.
All this teaches us to look to ourselves. Now is the day of opportunity. Now is the time when we can adjust our thinking and our behaviour. Now is the time when we can earnestly seek the mercy of God, before we too fall into that pit of darkness.
The good news is that the mercy of God is available to all through His son the Lord Jesus Christ; but we must seek to manifest His truth and his righteousness. We must convert; we must repent!
God willing we will talk with you again next week, and bring you more of the Bible in the News at www.bibleinthenews.com or www.biblemagazine.com