Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

One Sin More Serious?

In a previous post, I quoted a Southern Baptist leader who gave the following statement in explaining why he believes that a Christian should not be a single-issue voter (regarding the issue of abortion):

Personally, I think that sanctity of life issues only deal with one of ten areas of sin in the Decalogue, so they are not to be elevated above all of the other prohibitions and commandments.

I attempted to argue against this statement by means of example in my previous post; in this post I hope to demonstrate why "sanctity of life issues" are "to be elevated above all of the other prohibitions and commandments," especially in the voting booth. I believe that my position on this issue is derived from two biblical passage in particular. The first comes from God's covenant with Noah:

"And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image." (Genesis 9:5-6 ESV)

In this covenant passage, God makes special note of a particular sin- the sin of murder. God relates this sin to His words in creating man and woman:

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27 ESV)

As theologian Wayne Grudem notes, the idea of man and woman created "in the image of God" indicates that people are like God and represent God in creation [Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 442]. The sin of murder, then- this singular sin that receives special mention by God and merits the death penalty before God issues the Law to Moses- is taken personally by God. When one person kills another, that person is symbolically killing God and his or her own life becomes forfeit.

The second biblical passage that must be noted is Romans 13:4. In instructing Christians about why we are to be submissive to a person who possesses governmental authority, the apostle Paul writes:

for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. (ESV)

In the above verse "the sword" obviously refers to the power of capital punishment (the picture of "the sword" is not invoked for the purpose of having us imagine someone being slapped on the hand with the flat of the sword). Basic to the biblical presentation concerning God's purpose for government in this sinful world is the idea of government inflicting physical punishment on the wrongdoer, especially executing the death penalty on those who take human life. When we vote for government officials, we must keep this in mind. Issues of social justice are indeed present in God's commands to rulers (see, for example, the book of Isaiah in which leaders are severely rebuked for favoring the rich, ignoring the pleas of the poor), and those we elect should be held accountable for their treatment of the disadvantaged, but the role of "avenger" is primary to government- to the extent that Paul (and also Peter- see 1 Peter 2:14) can refer to this role as if it were the only consideration. When electing an individual to governmental office, therefore, this must be our most serious concern- will this person act as an avenger against those who would cause others harm? Will this person obey God's ancient command to execute capital punishment against those who take a person's life? Will this person instead allow murder to take place without doing everything within his authority to stop this injustice and to see those committing the murder brought to justice?

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