Vengeance

John Piper’s Desiring God sermon this past Sunday is titled “When Is It Right to Repay Evil With Pain?”. The text is Romans 12:9-21, and his exposition demonstrates that while the Lord tells us “vengeance is mine”(Dt 32:25), we sometimes must act as His agent in the here and now.

Rev. Piper focuses on situations in which we must, as parents, employers, or police, repay that which is not good (or evil), with forceful correction — which some might consider to be in violation of the Christian spirit of love of neighbor. On this, he is right as rain, but I’d suggest that the same train of thought might profitably be applied to the need to go to war.

Not all wars, of course. Not most, I’d guess. The key precept for Christians must be that we are confident that we are going about God’s justice, tempered with mercy. The great caveat was written clearly by Rev. Piper:

…the hearts of Christians are satisfied with God and are not driven by the craving for revenge or self-exaltation or money or earthly security.

Just war theory aside, this is where most wars seem to fail. What was not stated is that the Christian has a God-given duty to protect the weak. It is, to coin a phrase, what Jesus would do; what, in fact, He did do.

The war in Iraq was opposed by the traditional “peace churches” (Mennonites, Friends, etc.), along with several so-called mainline Protestant denominations. The Pope wasn’t too keen on it, either. The problem from where I sit, as a conservative Protestant, is that those who opposed this particular war ignored the call to protect the weak. They seem to have completely ignored the Scriptural background for our Savior, in which God uses His people Israel to carry out His justice.

My view is that God’s wrath will be taken out against unrepentant sinners — at the end times, or in the here and now. Using the faithful as His fiery swift sword. As a reminder, consider this from the prophet Ezekiel (Chapter 25):

Prophecy Against Edom
12 “Thus says the Lord GOD: Because Edom acted revengefully against the house of Judah and has grievously offended in taking vengeance on them, 13therefore thus says the Lord GOD, I will stretch out my hand against Edom and cut off from it man and beast. And I will make it desolate; from Teman even to Dedan they shall fall by the sword. 14And I will lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel, and they shall do in Edom according to my anger and according to my wrath, and they shall know my vengeance, declares the Lord GOD.

Note that “by the hand of my people Israel.” Of course, those who hate George Bush because he is a Christian will heap scorn on the notion that our president is doing the Lord’s bidding in Iraq.

This would be impossible to prove to the skeptic, or even to the believer. The problem for the peace church people is that they can’t get past their cherry-picking approach to Scripture. Many believers simply stop after reading Jesus’ teaching in Luke 6:27-31. I believe that our war in Afghanistan, and Iraq, is in the tradition of Ezekiel. And that we helped to carry out His judgment against those such as the Taliban and the Saddam regime. Most importantly, I also believe that we have done so with a pure heart, and not for vainglory nor greed — despite what the naysayers claim.

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