Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Hating evil or loving your enemies?

Hate is not necessarily bad. To hate and fight against what destroys others we are entrusted to protect and care for is actually loving those being destroyed by what we hate.

Nevertheless it is not our job individually or collectively as the church to repay evil with evil.

It is legitimate to expose and even resist evil (harmful and destructive behavior). To seek retribution against it is not. That is God's job.

However, how that is worked out in real life is not always as cut and dried as we might prefer.

There is a tension that lies within what appears to be contradictory teachings in scripture.

There are two distinctions that need to be made. We have to distinguish between: 

1. Self-defense and punishment/retribution. 

And also between 

2. Personal and civil punishment/retribution.

I will address personal vs civil punishment/retribution first.

God has appointed civil authorities to punish wrong doing per Romans 13. So punishment of wrong doing is legitimate and necessary. But scripture indicates that punishment of evil is assigned by God only to governing authorities and not just anyone in general. Governing authorities are appointed by God to reward good and punish evil (Rom 13:3-4; I Pet 2:14).

On the personal/private level however, Christ teaches us (the private individual follower of Christ) to love our enemies, forgive those who do evil against us and to turn the other cheek. 

These are two very different ways of handling evil. To resolve this we must understand that scripture distinguishes between the civil and personal (or the public and private if you willin addressing evil

As an example, during his campaign speeches, the crowds called for Trump to lock up Clinton for two reasons. 1. They (as individual private citizens) do not have the legitimate authority to do so. 2. Therefore they were appealing to Trump (a not yet, but soon to be appointed civil authority) to do so. 

This is the same reason a policemen can legitimately take a life when a private citizen can not, assuming an officer is doing so within their authorized sphere of authority. 

However they must do so and can only do so within the boundaries clearly laid out in scripture. If they do not, they are no longer operating legitimately and must be tried by the very same laws they are authorized to enforce. For more on this click here

We often confuse these two. Because we, as private individuals/citizens, are instructed to love our enemies, we may think there is never a justification for punishment of evil and everyone must always "turn the other cheek" (and on a personal level this is correct). 
(Some (civil authorities) however are appointed by God to "take up the sword" and exercise or carry out God's law for wrong doing).  
Or we are being unloving on the other hand because we desire civil justice. Wanting civil justice is not only right but we are encouraged and called to pursue righteousness (Mat 5:6). But it is not our role to enforce it upon others as private citizens. On the public or civil level this is the role of civil authorities i.e. why they exist and at times must legitimately carry out this role.

Regarding self-defense vs punishment/retribution.

Self defense and protecting persons or things God has entrusted to my care is different from punishment or retribution. If someone breaks into my home and seeks to harm my family I am responsible to protect them and have every right to do whatever is necessary to do so. Even taking the life of the one seeking to harm my family or myself. This is not necessarily punishment or retribution. I am not acting out of revenge but out of defense of my loved ones as well as self defense. The end result might be the same (the taking of another life) but the motive is entirely different.

If you wish to see a further discussion of evil and the necessity of judgment I discuss these at the following two posts...

The necessity of judgment.

Is God angry at evil

I also discuss further my understanding of Romans 13 at …

Obeying the authorities

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Grace to you
Jim Deal