Thursday, June 18, 2015

On praying for your enemies

Suspected Charleston gunman Dylann Roof

If anyone is delighting in this day, it is surely the Devil.   The tragedy of 9 black victims cold bloodily gunned down by a young white man is the sort of madness that only the Evil One can come up.   And he will delight even more in the coming weeks and months ahead as this nation will continue to polarize itself further regarding issues of race relations, gun control, mental health, and death penalties.   We jump up and dance every time the Devil plays this tune.   And because he hates us and wants us to be miserable, he delights in all his handiwork. 

And when these events occur, there is always a small but vocal minority rushing to remind us that our Lord Jesus calls us to pray for our enemies.   It is a thin grating noise of a kind of grace that does not sit well with us in our anger.  And, for many of us—and I include myself—become even a little bit more angry when we hear it.  And those calls should irritate us. At their best, they are the call to slothful selves take the hard difficult challenge of our Lord seriously, to keep us from a burning anger that would lead us into more sin.  However, at worst, it is a call appealing the cheapest of graces.

Imagine a world without sin, a world without the Devil at work, such mayhem would never happen.  It would be a world of peace.   Yet we know it is not a world of peace, and so when peace is broken, the next call is the call for justice.   And our justice will be tainted by our sin, we know that.  But our justice, while broken and stained, still remains of divine origin.   In His providence, God has given the state the authority to dispense His will against those who would break His Law “Thou shalt not kill”.

What would perfect justice look like in this scenario?  A speedy guilty verdict and trip to the execution chamber?  I can see the appeal to that, but what if something better could come?  What about due process?   What about a man who comes to realize the horrible nature of his crime?  A man who is confronted by God’s Law and hears the Good News of salvation in Christ Jesus?  A man who willingly accepts whatever punishment the state gives to him as a sign of his effort to reconcile?  A man who rejects the hate that now possesses him and can only throw himself to the mercy of God and repents to those whom he has so grievously hurt?  

To pray for your enemy can mean to pray for God’s Law as well as His Gospel to be at work in the world. 

Blessed is the one… whose delight is in the law of the Lord.
                                                            -Psalm 1

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