Eternal Savior Lutheran Church

A member of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

2688 North Park Drive
Lafayette, CO 80026
303-665-6105
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June 28 – Compassion Toward The Condemned

“Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.  If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this,’ does not He Who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not He Who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will He not repay man according to his work?”  Proverbs 24:11,12

Devotional Thought For The Day

Just when you think you have a topic pretty well covered and understood, you are slammed by a passage like the one above. The commentaries head in two directions regarding “those who are being taken away to death.” The one assumes [as I would] that these condemned are in fact innocent – so that those who are aware of their innocence and yet do not stand up for them but plead ignorance are lying to God. This makes perfect sense to us – we know that love and justice requires that we do all that we can to preserve the innocent who are falsely accused and falsely convicted. It would be horrible immorality to knowingly remain silent while an innocent person is executed.

The other direction was a surprise to me – the assertion that guilt or innocence is not mentioned in the proverb, and therefore not part of the consideration.  The argument in these commentaries was against the imposition of the death penalty in principle, and though acknowledging the right that God has given man [civil government] to repay a murderer with death or to wage just warfare, many examples from Holy Scripture are given where a murderer remains alive.  To mention but a few: Cain, Moses, David, Joab, and Absalom.  The whole thrust of this argument is that God sides with mercy, that He “desires not the death of the wicked.” Two prominent early church fathers are also quoted as opposing the death penalty in principle.  The discussion of this position is worth listening to – even though we are well aware that the death penalty was part of the Mosaic civil code for Israel, and that God also commanded executions under certain circumstances.  So there is no immorality in the just execution of criminals by contemporary governments – though mercy could be pressed on behalf of the condemned.

Of concern also to us is that God knows all of the disingenuousness of our hearts – how we easily dismiss our responsibilities, often pleading a feigned ignorance.  This may work when explaining ourselves to other human beings but it never works with God.  So His call is ever to deeper, clearer, and more honest confession of our sins – and it is certain that He is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins” as we walk in this light and confess. Thankfully God has paid the justice called forth by our sins upon Christ, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world. Still, there may be earthly consequences for our sins that are not relieved – and the injustice that we refuse to rebuke and condemn on behalf of others who are innocent may come back around to bite us.

At any rate, the concern that God has for all human beings, even those sentenced to death and those who hypocritically dismiss their sins of omission, is remarkable. God is ever present and near us – to love and support all, and He is eager to recruit us to His purposes and His thinking, that of ever greater care, compassion, concern, and relief for those who are vulnerable, in weakness, and in need.  May our love for all others, regardless of their circumstances, model that of God, Who loves us and Who rescued us when we were under sentence of death and eternal condemnation for our sins.  It’s worth thinking about.

Prayer For The Day

Dear Lord Jesus, in the face of lawlessness and violent crimes it is easy and natural for us to desire the death and destruction of the guilty – and to forget that You do not desire the death of the wicked, but that he turn from his way and live.  We stand in need of Your compassion, Your love, Your mercy and forgiveness, each and every day of our lives. Help us to develop a heart for others that is like Your heart is toward us. Amen.