Most of the time people’s desire is to see their enemies get what they deserve.
Our attitude toward those who do genuine evil and violence…
Murderers like the recently deceased Charles Manson.
People like Dylann Roof and Devin Patrick Kelley who specifically targeted and killed worshipping Christians…
How should we feel about them?
We often say things like…
“I hope they rot in hell.”
“I hope they die a slow and agonizing death.”
“Good riddance to them.”
We feel justified in these feelings because of the objective horror of their actions.
We often rejoice in their deaths.
What does Jesus say?
Those of us who apprentice ourselves after him should care.
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:44-48
Perhaps we read those words and think that Jesus is only talking about people we have differences of opinion with. Maybe people of a different political persuasion or fans of an opposing football team.
Don’t fool yourself.
What did Jesus do with his enemies?
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
Jesus expressing his desire that the people who were in the process of killing him would seek the opportunity for forgiveness.
If Jesus wanted forgiveness for the people who were torturing and killing God in human flesh, do we really think he’d want something else for Dylann Roof?
But that’s Jesus. Surely he can’t expect us to have the same attitude?
Stephen, one of Jesus early followers understood the heart of Jesus in the midst of his own unjust killing.
Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.” Acts 7:60
In Jesus’ teaching and example, God doesn’t rejoice in the death of an evil person, and neither should we.
I believe what we should feel above all else is sadness.
Sadness that a person that God created and loves and desires to be a part of his kingdom has instead rejected God and love and a d live the in a world of peace and justice.
God’s desire is that none should perish but rather come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
This is probably the hardest place for us to follow Jesus.
But I have no doubt that it’s where he’s leading us.
By his grace, I’ll follow him.
When a violent person dies, I do not rejoice. Yes, I’m glad that their ability to inflict harm is over,
But I’m sad that a human being created in the image of God never found the purpose for which they were created and instead rebelled entirely against it.