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Stephanie Salter, writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, attempts to instruct President Bush on what Jesus would do in terms of war based on the verse “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). It’s possible to disagree with President Bush’s decision to go to war against Iraq, but it’s not possible to argue that the civil magistrate cannot wage war against “all enemies, both foreign and domestic.” There are times when it’s right to fight. Like so much of left-leaning, liberal lunacy, the Bible is read in bits and pieces.
Even so, it’s good to know that journalists are taking the Bible seriously. Of course, it seems that the Bible is quoted only when it suits a particular liberal point of view, like around Christmas time when we’re told that “Christmas is about a homeless couple.” Of course, the Bible can be made to say almost anything when verses are ripped from their original context. Consider these three:
“Judas went out and hanged himself” (Matt. 27:5).
“Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:37)
“That thou doest, do quickly” (John 13:27).
All three verses are found in the Bible, but when taken out of context, and interpreted in isolation from their original context, can be made to say almost anything. Given this methodology, it can be claimed that God does not exist (Ps. 14:1; 1 Cor. 8:4).
Now to the vengeance argument. It is true that Paul writes the following: “Never pay back evil for evil . . . as far as it depends on you be at peace with all men. . . . ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” (Rom. 12:17-21). Notice the caveat: “as far as it depends on you.” But what if someone is intent on killing you or your loved ones? Should you “be at peace” with this type of person or fire first and ask questions later (Ex. 22:2)? Then there’s what “Jesus-only moralists” do with Mark 7:1-13; cf. Ex. 21:15, 17). When a student at Emory University said that she followed the ethics of Jesus, I pointed her to the passage in Mark 7:10. She read it and almost fainted.
Following Romans 12, there is Romans 13: “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. . . . Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God. . . . For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil” (vv. 1-4). The civil magistrate, the very one that carries a sword as “an avenger,” is “a minister of God” in this capacity. Again, we can argue over this war or that war, but not over the right of the civil magistrate to wage war.
It’s quite evident, therefore, that Paul, in Romans 12, is describing how the individual should respond to a wrong, and in Romans 13 he is describing how the civil magistrate is duty-bound to act. While the individual is not to take vengeance if he can avoid it, the civil magistrate has every right to punish evil doers in its civil capacity.
All of the Bible is God’s Word, not just a few carefully chosen feel-good verses. I’ve always had a problem with the WWJD? ethic since it means only part of the Bible is God’s Word. But according to the Bible itself, “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16). While not as catchy, W.D.T.B.S? (What Does the Bible Say?) is a more accurate way to describe our moral duty.