Category Archives: justice

Pro-Death Penalty = Anti-Shalom

execute justiceIn his excellent blog post last week on the travesty that is called the “Timely Justice Act,” which still sits on the desk of Florida Governor Rick Scott, my partner-monk Bret wisely rips apart the argument that justice has anything to do with the bill, which would speed the execution process. In fact, as he shows by the words of those who support the bill, justice is actually beside the point! What matters is a swift process, not an accurate one.

But this skirts a fundamentally more important issue, one which has a lot to do with the life and calling of a missional monk. That issue has to do with a right understanding of justice.

What exactly do we mean we talk about justice? In current popular usage, justice refers simply to the process by which those who are accused of a crime are tried, and either absolved or convicted and punished. The popularity of shows like “CSI,” “Law and Order,” and “NCIS,” as well as superhero movies, proves that we like to watch bad guys get caught, and we like to see them get what’s coming to them.

In contemporary Christian lingo, justice tends to take one of two predominant meanings. It could refer to a trait of God, which is unyielding and stubborn, and finally exercised by Jesus on a white throne at the end of time. Of course, God’s justice is tempered by God’s mercy, but it is never obliterated or removed. This justice is a divine necessity.

A second meaning is used, either perjoratively or complimentary, of Christians who are concerned with social issues, such as climate change, poverty, environmental destruction, and war. Usually the word “social” is tacked on in front of the word “justice.” Often, churches are depicted as focusing either on personal piety or social justice; this dichotomy has infiltrated most churches in North America.

I think we ought to abandon these notions of justice, and start over with something that is more concrete, as well as more scriptural.

First of all, we must reclaim justice as an integral part of our identity as followers of Jesus. It is not a separate sphere of action; it is not a call to which only certain people and prophets must pursue; it does not stand in contradistinction with piety, spiritual disciplines, or worship.

When we follow Jesus, we are pursuing lives of justice, which orients us to all areas of human activity.

In scripture, there are two Hebrew words for justice: tzedekah and mishpat. These words get alternatively translated as “justice” and “righteousness,” and are shown to have roughly the same meaning. And in fact, in the Greek New Testament, there is simply one word used interchangeably for both.

The best scriptural definition for justice, then, is righteousness, which means simply “to be in right relation with.” Justice is a relational word! When justice is done, then right relationships exist between individuals, communities, cities, and nations. Things are set right, things become what they were meant to be in relation to each other.

Justice is never an abstract concept; it can be seen concretely when people treat each other with dignity and respect, or as Jesus would put it, with love.

This is why every part of our lives is a justice issue. The things we teach our children orient them to a certain relationship with others and the world; the prayers we pray strengthen our relationship with God; the worship we engage in impacts our relationship with fellow members in the pews. Everything is about justice, because human existence is a dense network of relationships.

In his book, Walking With the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development, Bryant L. Myers argues that the nature of poverty is essentially relational: “Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings.”

By introducing the word shalom into the conversation, Myers brings a different scriptural word into play, one which I believe could transform the conversation. Shalom is a beautifully rich Hebrew word which encompasses everything we could possibly want to say about justice. It is translated peace, wholeness, fullness, and wellbeing. It is used, to this day, as a greeting as well as a benediction. Shalom is both the goal of all life and the promised future, as well as the kind of life which we, as followers of Christ, have access to right now. Shalom is, essentially, the kingdom of God, which is both now and not yet.

Shalom is being in right relationship — with everything and everyone!

Myers illustrates the idea of shalom with a simple chart that depicts the self in relationship with five other spheres: the self, God, others, community, and the environment. Shalom is the state of being in right relations with all of these spheres. Thus, one must have a healthy self-awareness and identity, must have a living relationship with God, must have healthy relationships with family and friends, must be a responsible and participating member of the community, and must be a conscious and careful citizen of the planet. Only when all of those relationships are in order, can it be said that true justice, or true shalom, is present.

What makes this state of affairs difficult to achieve is that everything is overlaid with the unseen, invisible forces of systems — economic, social, political, global, and even religious — which conspire to thwart, twist, and corrupt any attempts at making relationships sound. These systems include patterns of thought, unspoken assumptions, prejudices and hatreds.

When seen in this framework, then, bills like the “Timely Justice Act” are seen as what they truly are — pitiful and painful attempts to make things right by removing the relational aspect from the picture.

In fact, the death penalty itself fails to achieve anything like “justice” for this very reason.

If justice means to restore even the remote possibility of a right relationship, then killing someone is out of the question. To take someone else’s life means to destroy all possibility that something new and hopeful might replace the well-worn conflicts and abuses that have existed before.

This is why so much is being made today of the difference between retributive and restorative justice. Retributive justice pays back and punishes; it makes a judgment that someone must be harmed in retaliation for what he or she has done. This retaliation usually results in destroyed relationships.

But restorative justice believes that a person can be redeemed and can have his or her relationships with others restored. Hope remains, because the possibility of a new relationship is kept open, even if only slightly, with family, friends, and even the victim and victim’s family.

The death penalty is the ultimate anti-shalom measure. It breaks and crushes the possibilty that a murderer might be able to find forgiveness, receive a word of grace, or even speak a word of grace to someone else. It continues the spiral of destruction which a murderer began, often because of the lack of shalom in his own life.

If we want true justice, which is always timely, by the way, then it begins with the relationships closest to us. Down the hall, across the street, on the other end of a phone.

Do justice. Make shalom.

And please, Gov. Scott — kill that bill.

Becoming Highly Productive Executioners.

Like most people, my adolescent years were marked by occasional philosophical conflicts with my parents. However, I grew up on a ranch, so some of the contentious issues might seem foreign to others.

For instance, it used to bug me that while tromping around the woods, my Dad insisted I keep using my single-shot .22 rather than his semi-automatic version. As is often the case, it took a few years to realize his motive wasn’t to crush my dreams and steal my joy. He was teaching me that claiming the responsibility of shooting a rifle means learning how to shoot it responsibly. That means shooting straight, with full awareness of surroundings and the potential implications of every squeeze of the trigger.

When you shoot you want to hit a target – obviously. If you want to hit a target, you can either shoot straight or you can shoot fast and often.

Shooting straight is hard. It takes effort, patience, and dedication. It requires you to develop accuracy, learn to control your breathing, pay attention to your surroundings, and choose your shot carefully. My single-shot was made for this approach.

On the other hand, shooting fast is easy and appealing. Instead of skill, practice, or patience, it only requires bullets. Without all that tedious concern with accuracy, you simply shoot enough times that you eventually hit the target…and a lot of other things as well. Dad had strong opinions about “fast shooters.” He viewed their careless mindset and reckless behavior as a danger to everyone.

During the last week of April 2013, the Florida legislature passed a bill meant to increase efficiency in the process of death row executions by setting time limits and decreasing options for appeals. Citing the cost of keeping inmates on death row for decades and the extended lack of closure for the families of victims, Republican lawmakers were able to get this bill through the House and Senate with overwhelming support.

In the minds of some, should Governor Rick Scott sign the “Timely Justice Act” into law this month, Florida will hit several targets. They’ll hit the target of reducing the high cost associated with lengthy stays on death row. They’ll hit the target of bringing “swift justice” to the state’s worst criminals. They’ll hit the target of bringing closure to the families of the victims.

However, there is a major problem. This bill and it’s proponents are rejecting hard work and accuracy, instead embracing the careless mindset of “shoot fast and shoot often.” Their lack of concern for accuracy is going to increase the number of targets hit, but it will also increase the number of wrong and unintended targets hit. And that is unacceptable.

The bill is not about “Timely Justice,” it is about swift execution, regardless of innocence or guilt.

The death penalty currently represents the ultimate and final form of justice applied to perpetrators of extreme violence and evil in 32 states. Full disclosure, I abhor the death penalty. I don’t find it to be a convincing definition of justice, but rather the final sign that justice and reconciliation have eluded us.

But my feelings about the death penalty don’t matter at this point. The issue on the table, which is going to be decided in the next couple weeks, is this bill to execute people more quickly in the state of Florida. Even by the current definition of justice, the Timely Justice Act is a direct affront to justice.

If we claim to be a just society, and executing perpetrators is our form of justice, then we are obligated to do the hard work and refuse the temptation to be fast shooters. Accuracy is nonnegotiable for justice, particularly where executions are concerned. And this bill decreases accuracy.

It must not be signed into law.


What is so dangerous about this bill in Florida?

Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, Florida has executed 76 people.1 During the same time period a whopping 24 people, the most in the nation, have been exonerated after sentencing. This one state represents 17% of the nation’s 142 cases of death row exonerations.2 And that figure doesn’t take into account those whose death sentences were reduced or commuted.

This is a state that has one erroneous death sentence exonerated for every three people executed. The people of Florida should be enraged that their lawmakers would try to speed up a process that they can’t perform accurately at a slower pace.

You don’t need to be opposed to the death penalty to oppose this bill. The only reason you should support this bill is if you have no problem executing innocent people. It’s easy to get caught up thinking about the one’s who get away with murder – or take advantage of the system. Proponents of this bill will definitely play up the need to be “tough on crime.” But we need to remember:

  1. With this bill, the system is still broken, it’s just faster. That means there is less time to correct mistakes, with too little being done to avoid making the mistakes in the first place. While the bill attempts to address issues of incompetent representation – particularly in court appointed attorneys – it doesn’t say much about how they are going to pay these people. Interesting…this is normally the complaint we hear the Republicans leveling at Democrats.
  2. Removing/reducing the hope for appeal doesn’t just block the guilty who are taking advantage. It also blocks the falsely convicted scrambling to save their lives.
  3. Don’t Worry: Wealthy people (innocent or guilty) will still get off the hook.  Its only the poor, the one’s who are at the mercy of court appointed representation, who really need to worry…But at least now we don’t have to listen to them complain for so long, right?

This bill is not concerned with accuracy, it is concerned with a particular outcome, namely, executing somebody…whether they committed the crime or not. As Sen. Robert Bradley, R-Orange Park has made clear, “This isn’t about innocence or guilt, it’s about timely justice.” Other than the ironic misuse of the word “justice,” I couldn’t have said it better…but he was supposedly supporting the bill with that statement.

Sen. Bradley’s statement is startlingly (if unintentionally) honest, incredibly disturbing, and wholly inaccurate. In the minds of those who choose to shoot fast instead of straight, accuracy and outcome may be separate issues. But that just confirms my Dad’s beliefs that fast shooters operate from a mindset of carelessness.

Justice which can somehow be separated from innocence or guilt is a new definition of justice altogether; neither the one that many of us long for, nor the one we currently have. This bill is pursuing a facade of justice, a hollow victory based on someone repaying blood for blood, and that person’s guilt or innocence in the matter is not the primary concern.

“But,” you may say, “they have already been found guilty!”

Yes, they have been found guilty in a state with a documented history of unfairness and inaccuracy in their death penalty system. In a 2006 analysis of Florida’s death penalty laws, procedures and practices, an American Bar Association (ABA) report states, “the State of Florida fails to comply or is only in partial compliance with many of these recommendations and that many of these shortcomings are substantial. More specifically, the Team is convinced that there is a need to improve the fairness and accuracy in the death penalty system… The Florida Death Penalty Assessment Team has identified a number of areas in which Florida’s death penalty system falls short in the effort to afford every capital defendant fair and accurate procedures.”3

Florida is also the only remaining state in which a simple majority vote of the jury is sufficient to sentence someone to death. Five members of a jury can remain unconvinced without stopping the sentence. That detail becomes even more disconcerting when we consider that the previously mentioned report from the ABA found that “many Florida capital jurors do not understand their role and responsibilities when deciding whether to impose a death sentence.”4 Among other signs of confusion, “36 percent of interviewed Florida capital jurors incorrectly believed that they were required to sentence the defendant to death if they found the defendant’s conduct to be “heinous, vile, or depraved”¬¬ beyond a reasonable doubt”5 (emphasis mine).

And yet, even in cases where the jury doesn’t recommend the death penalty, the practice of judicial override (used 166 times between 1972 and 1999) in Florida may mean the death sentence is given anyway. The 2006 ABA report cites a study showing that “trial judges take into account the potential ‘repercussions of an unpopular decision in a capital case,’ which encourages judges in judicial override states to override jury recommendations of life, ‘especially so in the run up to judicial elections.”6

There are reasons that we have an appeal process in our courts. We’re not talking about staying after school for detention, or passing the 30-day window for returning your item to the store. We’re talking about the life and death of a human being. That warrants some caution before taking irreversible action. This is part of the price we pay in order to continue claiming to be a nation grounded in things like truth, justice and the sanctity of life.

This bill threatens to void those claims.

Among the 24 cases in Florida, the average time from sentencing to exoneration has been 7.5 years (national average is 9.8 years).7 If this bill becomes law, without the immediate provision of new evidence, executions will happen in a matter of months.

Months.

Even if we stretch that out to one year, only 2 of the Florida 24 would come close to that window. Two. As in, just two people more than zero.

If this bill had been in place since 1976, how many of these twenty-four exonerated people would have been executed? We can’t know for sure, but the odds for twenty-two of them are pretty bad and the odds for the other two aren’t great. At least two people who received commuted sentences (as opposed to the full exoneration of the 24) after new evidence came to light would have fallen well outside that 1-year lifespan.8

No other state in the nation has more local data to comprise an informed notion of how long it can take to fully investigate and sort these matters out. If we are going to snuff out the life of a person, we cannot afford to leave any lingering doubt as to whether it is the right person. Again, in a just society, accuracy is nonnegotiable.

But Florida representatives are apparently comfortable with not knowing. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, who sponsored the bill in the House, glibly stated, “Only God can judge, but we sure can set up the meeting.” This statement artfully combines a misapplication of Scripture, poor use of logic and an apparent belief in the incompetence of the judicial system. If only God can judge, then why have courts at all? Why make laws?

About a month after the “kill ‘em all, let God sort it out” comment, Rep. Gaetz summoned the power of the twittersphere to deflect his callous lack of concern. Here is the full text of his May 30 modified tweet (MT: which is reposting a version or a section of someone else’s tweet, usually with a comment or response):

Any of them mention the victims or their families? MT:”@TroyKinsey: A death penalty critic’s blasting @mattgaetz’ timely justice act.”9

It’s interesting to note the selective nature of this MT. Here’s the part of @TroyKinsey’s tweet that doesn’t make the modified cut: “Noting 8 inmates were exonerated after more than a decade on death row.”

The righteous condescension of Gaetz’ modified retweet is rivaled only by its accidental irony. This tweet was in response to a critic mentioning 8 people exonerated after MORE THAN A DECADE on death row. Are those the victims and families to whom he referred?

I’m not a lawmaker, I’m a minister. I know a lot about grief. And unfortunately, I also know about people using emotional ploys to kill conversation. There are certain things you can say that make it very difficult for the other person to argue. Appealing to the emotional trauma of families who have had loved ones snatched away from them by a murderer is one of those hard-to-reply-to arguments.

I don’t mean in anyway to sound insensitive to the grief of the victims’ families, but the fact that their grief is even being brought up in a conversation about falsely convicted people suggests exploitation of their grief to push another agenda.

Rep Gaetz doesn’t seem to appreciate how inaccuracy in the death penalty system creates victims – though my suspicion is that he simply will not admit it publicly.

Speeding up an inaccurate process will lead to fewer exonerations10 and less time on death row, thus simultaneously lowering the cost to the state and lowering public awareness of inaccurate sentences.

But the victims are created whether the government acknowledges them or not. I understand grief and I have a great deal of painful experience grieving with those who grieve. I have seen tremendous grief and longing for justice – as well as insatiable thirst for revenge. I’ve sat and visited with inmates – some who were behind bars because of their own stupid, broken decisions, as well as those behind bars because the justice system is just as broken.

I’ve also wept with the families torn apart by tragedy, violence and evil – which is true of the families of both victims and perpetrators. All are in tremendous pain. All long for justice. And the people of God are sent to stand with those who cry for justice and lend their own voices to the chorus.

For those who have ears to hear, the cry for justice is the most piercing cry of all. And those who hear that cry are compelled to see justice done. This is as it should be.

But this bill isn’t offering justice. It’s offering retribution. Worse yet, it’s offering retribution with only moderate concern for guilt. The Timely Justice Act should more appropriately be called The Scapegoat Act.

No, the issue at stake in this bill isn’t justice at all. The justice-flavored additives are masking a concoction of “tough on crime” resume building, bottom-line finances, and deflecting attention from the real problems in Florida’s justice system.

Why have so many people been wrongly convicted and sentenced to death? That seems like an important question to answer and resolve before attempting to increase the rate of executions.11

The system is broken; no one is denying that reality. The fast shooter mindset may want to deal with a broken system by executing people before every possible doubt has been removed, but that will never be construed as justice by a just society.

I’m sorry Representative Gaetz, decreasing the accuracy of justice under the guise of concern for victims is misleading, at best, when your state’s inaccuracy is already leading the nation in creating victims. The stakes are too high, we cannot afford to get this wrong. We cannot lower the accuracy of this process even more and still pretend to be a just society.

Governor Rick Scott, I implore you, in the name of justice, please veto the Scapegoat Act.

With Hope,

Bret Wells, D.Min.

For more information on the death penalty in the United States, visit the Death Penalty Information Center website. You can also read the 400+ page ABA report on Florida’s death penalty system, or read this report written by Christopher Slobogin, chair of the Florida assessment team and Milton Underwood chair in Law, Vanderbilt University Law School. You can also visit the Florida Department of Corrections website to see more statistics about executions in the state.


bretDr. Bret Wells is the Director of Operations for the Missional Wisdom Foundation, where he oversees and is a member of the teaching faculty for the Academy for Missional Wisdom. He is also the minister of The Gathering in Burleson, TX.

He holds a Doctor of Ministry from Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology as well as an MA in Christian Ministry and a BS in Psychology and Christian Ministry from Abilene Christian University. Bret is also certified as a Christian Coach through Mission Alive and CoachNet.


1 Florida Department of Corrections website. http://www.dc.state.fl.us/oth/deathrow/execlist.html, Accessed June 3, 2013.

2 Qualifications for inclusion in this list of exonerations on Death Penalty Information Center website. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/innocence-list-those-freed-death-row. Accessed June 3, 2013:


“Defendants must have been convicted, sentenced to death and subsequently either-

      • Been acquitted of all charges related to the crime that placed them on death row, or
      • Had all charges related to the crime that placed them on death row dismissed by the prosecution, or
      • Been granted a complete pardon based on evidence of innocence.”

3 Florida Death Penalty Assessment Team, American Bar Association, “Evaluating Fairness and Accuracy in State Death Penalty Systems: The Florida Death Penalty Assessment Report,” September 2006. http://www.prisonpolicy.org/scans/aba/fldpreport.pdf, Accessed June 4, 2013, iii.

4 Ibid, vi.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid, vii.

7 Death Penalty Information Center, website, “Innocence: List of Those Freed From Death Row,” http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/innocence-list-those-freed-death-row. Accessed June 3, 2013.

8 Sonia Jacobs, convicted in 1976, released in 1992. Joseph Spaziano, convicted in 1976, still in Florida prison for other crimes. Information provided on Death Penalty Information Center website, “Additional Innocence Information,” under “A. Partial Innocence – Conviction Reduced”  http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/additional-innocence-information#Released. Accessed June 3, 2013.

Matt Gaetz twitter account, https://twitter.com/mattgaetz. Accessed June 3, 2013.

10 Closing doors on the appeal process could not only lead to more posthumous exonerations, it could also mean that innocence is never formally recognized. As the Death Penalty Information Center states, “There is no way to tell how many of the over 1,000 people executed since 1976 may also have been innocent. Courts do not generally entertain claims of innocence when the defendant is dead. Defense attorneys move on to other cases where clients’ lives can still be saved.” http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/executed-possibly-innocent. Accessed June 3, 2013.

11 The 400+ page Florida Death Penalty Assessment Report certainly sheds some light on how this happened at least prior to 2006. In addition to the juror confusion and simple majority vote issues already stated, the report also focused on inadequate compensation for conflict trial counsel in death penalty cases, lack of qualified and properly monitored Capital Collateral Registry Counsel, inadequate compensation for Capital Collateral Registry Attorneys, the practice of judicial override, lack of transparency in the clemency process, racial disparities in Florida’s capital sentencing, and geographic disparities in Florida’s capital sentencing. http://www.prisonpolicy.org/scans/aba/fldpreport.pdf . Accessed June 3, 2013, iv-viii.

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Sent. Together.

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Exploring the Collision Between the Missional and the Monastic.

Engaging the Mission of God…Right Where We Are.

These are a couple of the taglines that Missional Monks has used over the last 3 years to communicate what we’re addressing with this website, the podcast, and other equipping works. Lately, Wes and I have been focusing on a new – shorter (you’re welcome) – version.

Sent. Together.

Missional = Sent. Monks = Together.

A tagline that defines our name and describes our vision. Simple, eh?

Of course when we start digging in to what it means to live a Sent. Together. life, there are countless paths to explore. Sent. Together. should describe the posture of our churches and faith communities. It provides direction for our church planting, evangelism and discipleship endeavors.

But it also speaks about the way we view broader cultural issues. The human experience itself should be understood as a lived expression of a Sent. Together. process. We are not created to live in isolation. The problems you face are my problems precisely because you face them.

And so as Missional Monks we are committed to engaging community building projects, like the Bret Sent Me experiment. And we’re committed to things like neighborhood meals, playdates at the park, volunteering in our children’s schools, coaching, and training coaches to help people improve their missional imagination.

This afternoon we’re going to post the first of a series of articles that address a disturbing and incredibly unjust piece of legislation currently awaiting either signature or veto from the Florida Governor’s office. Speaking out against this sort of injustice is part of what it means to be a Missional Monk, because it is a recognition that our neighbor’s struggle is our struggle…and hearing our neighbor’s plight is itself a call to action.

Stay tuned.

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A Prayer for Friday, September 9

A clear voice of hope and reconciliation from the Church

Father, in the face of a day filled with memories of both evil and heroism, prepare the hearts and the voice of your church. Let your people be known for compassion, grace and mercy just as you have made yourself known to us. We pray for your mission of reconciliation in the midst of all creation – we acknowledge our calling to participate in this mission and we confess the many ways in which we have failed to live into our calling.

We praise you God, for the ways that you have led us into reconciliation with others. We rejoice because of the ways in which disciples of Jesus have proclaimed the new life in your kingdom through their actions. We ask for you to open our eyes to the similar opportunities you have placed in front of each of us.

Wherever we encounter voices of fear, distrust, violence, greed, selfishness and coercion, give us words and actions of faith, hope and love in response. We pray that our faith will not lead us to abandon the world, but will propel us into reconcile with those who are estranged, reclaim the things which have been stolen by sin, and remake that which has been broken. Lord, we acknowledge that this is your mission, not our own, and we thank you for inviting us to join in something so substantial.

A Prayer for Thursday, September 8

Leaders who lead through visions of justice rather than fear

Holy God, we trust that perfect love drives out fear and yet we confess that too often, fear remains our constant companion. Open our eyes to the ways in which we allow fear, rather than faith, hope and love, to drive our decisions. We pray for the leaders of our country, local governments, influential organizations and your church. May our leaders lead through visions of justice rather than reactions to, and manipulation of, fear. We pray for your perfect love to be made perfect within us. Lord have mercy.

A Christian Response to the Death of Osama Bin Laden

I can’t help but see a divine appointment in the timing for today’s prayer. Our petition to God for wisdom for his Church was prepared in advance of the events of last night. The US military’s killing of Osama Bin Laden may come as some comfort to those who have cried out for justice since they lost loved ones on September 11, 2001, and in the wars that have followed. However, this sort of justice is not something that brings joy to the hearts of those who, with God, long for the restoration and reconciliation of humanity and all creation. Loved ones who were killed are not yet returned to us, but still await the resurrection and the final defeat of our true enemies, sin and death. 

In the meantime, more death and violence may be inevitable, but violence will never bring peace, only more violence. Let us weep with and pray for the families and loved ones of all those who have died on both sides during the past decade of war; for all those everywhere who mourn the effects of war and brutality. In fact, let us pray for healing of the pain shared by all creation due to centuries upon centuries of violence.

For Bin Laden, and countless others who live by violence, this sort of end comes as a consequence of their choices and actions. It is not for me to say whether or not this was God’s vengeance being enacted; such things are too lofty for me. In either case, the proper response of the disciples of Jesus is not to rejoice in the suffering of our enemies. As I was going to bed at 7 this morning, I prayed that God’s wisdom would indeed be poured out on the Church today. May we truly be a people who display wisdom which leads to reconciliation. 

I am reminded of the response of the Amish community in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania after the horrific murder and wounding of several young girls in a small schoolhouse a few years ago. The people of that community, only hours after their children were murdered by a terribly troubled man, surrounded his wife expressing comfort for her loss and their forgiveness for her husband’s actions. 

In his book, Unconditional, Brian Zhand states that the radical response of forgiveness in these cases steals the last word away from evil. Rather than death, violence, vengeance, retribution, the final word becomes healing, forgiveness, mercy, compassion, new life. Even the media, which loves scandal and initially reported on the “Nickel Mines Massacre,” began referring to the events surrounding that shooting as the “Nickel Mines Miracle.” In whatever way possible, let our response to the killing of this human being express our hope for a final word beyond retribution or even justice.

Grace and Peace,
Bret

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