Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
Yesterday, today, and the next two days our lectionary posts deal with Scriptures typically used for the Holy Innocents, sometimes called the Slaughter of the Innocents. Yesterday I talked a little bit about the enormity of the problem of abortion in my country, since that is a clear example of children being killed without adequate protective intervention.
Today, what do Christians do about situations such as abortion? For that matter, with an increasing number of political voices suggesting that it is all right to execute survivors of abortion, to participate in active euthanasia, or to deny treatment to terminally ill patients, even if they aren't heading toward immediate death, we need to ask how we will respond. How do we protect these people who bear the image of God by their very existence as humans? What is an appropriate reaction?
I have been accused of being "like the kind of person who would . . . " Go ahead and fill in the blank. It's an unfair accusation, and was already an unfair accusation when the author of Rhetorica ad Herennium suggested this was precisely the kind of accusation the prosecutor should make when nothing else is ready to stick. You want women to suffer. You want children to be forced to grow up in homes that don't provide love. You don't care about quality of life issues. You don't care about poverty. Or this one, which is more closely related to Psalm 54. "You are like those people who would try to blow up or set fire to an abortion clinic, then."
Actually, I think the Scripture would take a rather low view of arson or explosive attacks which would deomolish private property, possibly harm people, and certainly create a public safety hazard for those in the neighborhood. This is the kind of attack which is carried out in certain clearly-defined circumstances. It's an act of war against an enemy who recognizes it as warfare. Innocent bystanders have had an opportunity to leave. The property is destroyed after asking that the property be turned over without a fight.
How does this relate to Psalm 54? In verse five it says that the Lord is the one who will return evil to my enemies. God is the God who rejects evil and who protects his people. He cares about those who bear his image in their human nature. He cares about those who are unjustly persecuted, including being put to death. But outside of the very specific circumstance of warfare, and nobody is likely to ask me to join in that military action (being a grandpa and an academic, not exactly suited to active duty), I leave vengeance to the Lord. I can pursue legal means, I can try to persuade people, I can try to create incentives to protect human life, but it isn't within my vocation to torch the abortion clinic. It isn't even within my vocation to put sugar in the gas tanks of the people who urge active euthanasia for elderly people.
The Lord will take care of it. He will guard his people. He will return evil onto the heads of those who have practiced evil. I'll keep on trying to persuade them not to do evil. They need a warning. Meanwhile, let's try to do good in our world.
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