There was quite a bit of conversation last week after I posted about the benevolent act of Philip Workman, a man executed in Tennessee last week for murder. The initial comments put me deep in thought and I’ve been trying to think through my values and ethics and trying to make sure I’m not holding double standards. This is not a direct response to those comments, but it was provoked by those thoughts. Today, I simply wanted to write a brief devotional thoughts post about some of the heroes of the Christian faith.
Moses seemed to often be in the right place at the right time. As a baby, when his fellow Hebrew tots were being killed off, Moses managed to get in with Pharaoh’s family and grow up as royalty. Then he grew up, learned a bit about his history, and in a moment of zeal kills a guy. He lives as a fugitive in the desert for about forty years and then goes on to lead one of the greatest freedom movements of ancient times, the exodus of the Jewish people out of Egypt. Moses was a murderer, though never captured and convicted, and he then went on to be a famous leader and a pillar of the Jewish and Christian faith.
David is the original Cinderalla-story: Shepard boy becomes Israel’s great King. Every kid in a church grows up hearing about how David slays Goliath. And we don’t really see it as murder, it’s the epic good vs. evil story, redemptive violence at its finest. So, most wouldn’t agree that David qualifies as a murderer for that. But the other story we don’t teach many kids in church, is about David committing adultery and then having a man killed to protect his crime. And as repentant as David might have been, David was a murderer. David even recommended the death penalty for a person who committed a crime such as his, but the sentence was never carried out. David is remembered as one of Israel’s Greatest Kings, which seems to overshadow his death-deserving crime.
Paul is, next to Jesus, probably the most influential forefather of the Christian faith. The guy wrote half the New Testament, established churches all over the Roman Empire and was a martyr for the faith. Paul was so special, Jesus even paid him a special visit after he’d already ascended to heaven. By his own admission Paul was a murderer of Christian’s prior to becoming one himself. The fact that Paul’s murderous campaigns were one of the greatest original threats to Christianity does not seem to phase us now as we lift him up as one of the founding pillars of our faith.
Jesus himself was more or less a fugitive for part of his three years of ministry. He constantly avoided certain areas and had to duck away from persecuting crowds (how he managed that is a mystery to me). And Jesus, who maintained his innocence until the very end received the death penalty.
The point of this short run down of Biblical figures was not to make a statement that murder is okay, by no means do I think killing someone is ever a good idea. It was a chance however to reflect on how four of the greatest figures in the Bible were or were treated as criminals, and yet we are able to look through that, around it, in spite of it and see the great good that was accomplished through them as well. I have the great honor to work with many youth who in their own moments have made grave mistakes and they are paying a price for that. However, I would hope I, and no one else, ever stamps a permanent label on them that keeps them from having a second chance and keeps others from recognizing each benevolent act that they make. Here’s to every murderer who has turned their life around and contributed to the well being of humanity, I applaud you.