Earlier this year Time magazine delivered to our mailboxes a cover story linking violence to religious fanaticism: The well-armed leader of the Branch Davidians was still holed up in his Texas fortress and the FBI was rounding up Muslims suspected of a religiously motivated bombing of the World Trade Center.
Just two days after that issue of Time arrived, evangelicals were horrified by religious violence much closer to home: a prolife activist shot an abortionist in the back and killed him. Most of the Rescue movement leadership were quick to point out that the doctor deserved what happened to him and slow to condemn the doctor’s assailant as a cold-blooded murderer.
Christians working for justice, including the saving of preborn lives, must not only condemn such a murder, but they must firmly eschew violence. Without such a commitment, the message of the prolife movement is undermined: Life itself is no longer sacred.
Two key chapters in Scripture, Romans 12 and 13, teach us several important lessons that make a commitment to nonviolent action mandatory:
First, Christians are called to overcome evil with good. Violence begets violence, hate begets hate. Such acts and emotions remake us in the image of our enemy. But inaction can simply harden us to evil. Thus Paul warns, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Second, Christians are commanded never to take vengeance. This is part of the New Testament understanding that we are called not to be effective, but to be faithful. When patient protest does not bring results, it is easy to reason that a clinic bombing or even an assassination is better than the loss of thousands of preborn lives. But building on Moses’ proscription of vengeance, ...1
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