Saturday, December 30, 2006

Let He Who is Without Sin Cast the First Stone

Early this morning, far away, Saddam Hussein was executed. Before we get too enthusiastic about this event, we must remember a few things. Saddam Hussein was an evil man and a mass-murderer; but this is not how God saw him. When God saw Saddam Hussein, He saw a precious child, someone He loved and would, if need be, give His life for. And now, He sees a precious child, gasping for air, hanged and killed. Politically, capital punishment is state sanctioned murder, regardless of who is being executed. In America it is tolerated by weak willed politicians who are too cowardly to recognize what every other civilized nation already has; that it does not matter who does the killing or who the victim is; murder is murder and two wrongs don't make a right.
But, to Christians, it is even worse. Ignoring for a minute (somehow), that our master was brutally tortured and murdered by the officials of His time, we are still confronted by Jesus' antipathy to executions. In John 6:2-11, we read of the Jewish officials bringing a woman caught in adultery to Jesus, and He tells them, "whomever is without sin, cast the first stone." It is ironic that a government put in place by an occupying force, that is directly responsible for more deaths in Iraq in three years that Saddam managed to cause in twenty years of brutal bloody rule could consider themselves "without sin."
It is the pinnacle of hypocrisy that some of the very people who colluded with him in his genocidal rage, could stand back and accept none of the blame. It is heartbreaking that all of the horrors that the American people were regaled with to justify the invasion; murder, rape, torture, oppression; have been committed by the new government and the occupation.
Even if Saddam were not a valued child of God, even if the heavens did not weep over this brutal murder, even if answering violence with violence were not opposed to everything the gospel teaches; would these be the group to mete out this punishment, would any of us? Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:22 that anyone who is even angry with his brother has already murdered him, whomever calls his brother a name is answerable to the council and if you consider your brother below contempt and unworthy of life, you risk the fires of hell. The very desire to kill for revenge or "justice" makes one guilty of the very sin they seek to punish.
But, this is, after all, Saddam Hussein, the butcher of Baghdad! If anybody should be executed, surely it should be him! He is among those who deserve mercy the least. Leaving off for a second that there are much worse murders in the world today (many of them trained in our "School of the Americas"), and that most of his murders were committed at our behest, this to a Christian is not adequate justification. Jesus tells us that how we treat "the least" is exactly the measure we will be judged on in Matthew 25:40,48. It is exactly how much mercy you show the murderer, the sex offender, the fellow that is cutting the budget for the poor and elderly to provide another tax cut, the CEO that has laid off another ten thousand workers to make his bonus bigger, the wholesale indiscriminate abortionist and all the like; that determines how much you are modeling your Lord, how far you are going to usher in the kingdom. It is easy to love the lovable, to lend to the rich and to feed the satisfied, it just doesn't have much effect.
Isaiah 55:9 tells us of the Lord "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." We can't outlove or outforgive or outgive God, but that doesn't mean we can stop trying. His solutions are better than ours, even if we can make a solid case otherwise. Jesus said do not murder, do not hurl the stone, do not answer evil for evil or violence for violence, those who live by the sword will die by it. The path that Jesus calls us to tread is one of non-violence, not just sometimes; but all of the time.


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