by Rev. Chris Ponnet
Not as a human sees does God see. (1 Samuel 16:6)
On the night before California resumed executions, I stood outside San Quentin. It was a beautiful and quiet night. When the sun began to rise, an evangelical preacher arrived to set up his signs of support of executions. As the press arrived, he mocked me and demanded the press allow us to debate. I agreed on one condition: as fellow Christians we would use only Christian biblical texts. He refused. This evangelical pastor’s only support is found in Hebrew texts that Rabbinical scholars remind us that we Christians often misuse, such as an “eye for an eye” (Luke 24:19). We are reminded that as Jewish practice and law developed, executions were allowed only when the 72 leaders were in full agreement, which was set up so execution would not be allowed in practice.
The scriptures teach us that “not as humans see does God see” (1 Samuel 16:6), and the question of Jesus in John 9 demands us to love God’s mercy as the divine reality beyond laws and historical practice. The letter to the Ephesians (5:8) calls us to “live as children of light.” We are not to live in darkness, death, hatred, and division, but we are to be people of light. As a nation, this demands disarmament of weapons of mass destruction as well as our execution chambers. As a church, it demands us to remember those who are poor, as Pope Francis has called for: “Oh, how I would like a poor Church, and for the poor.” And as we as individuals and official church leaders add our voices to other religious and secular leaders, demanding an end to executions, we voice this because no killing is approved by God, from the unborn to those on battlefields; no one is outside of God’s mercy nor our mercy; no one who experiences the judgment of court or peers is beyond the reconciliation of God. The best of us demands our working with victims and victims’ families and proclaiming that God’s mercy is open to all and that killing a killer only brings that person before a God of forgiveness, not of vengeance. “The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1) is not a truth for some people, but for all of God’s children created in God’s image and likeness.
- Whom do you need to forgive so as to be free to live the Easter message of Jesus: Peace is with you/Pax Christi?
This reflection was written by Rev. Chris Ponnet in this year’s Lenten reflection booklet, Embracing Possibilities: Reflections for Lent 2014, and is available as a download for purchase from the Pax Christi USA website.