"Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy." - John Trapp

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

WoW: Bridges and Unforgiven (Prov. 28:17)

Near the end of Unforgiven, Clint Eastwood's Billy Munny stands by a tree where "The Schofield Kid" sits. The kid is drinking whiskey, having just killed his first man. He had mistakenly thought that this act would transform him into a larger than life figure, a "Billy Munny". The following exchange rings with the weight both men now bear.
The Schofield Kid: It don't seem real. How he ain't gonna never breathe again, ever. How he's dead. An' the other one, too. All on account of pullin' a trigger.
Billy Munny: It's a h**l of a thing, killin' a man. You take away all he's got an' all he's ever gonna have.
The Schofield Kid: Yeah. Well, I guess they had it comin'.
Billy Munny: We all have it comin', Kid.
It is the last line that is the most poignant and real. An acknowledgement of man's depravity. But it is the whole exchange, which reflects, most likely unknowingly, on Proverbs 28:17 that I want to consider. In Proverbs 28:17, the wisdom of Solomon says:
If one is burdened with the blood of another, he will be a fugitive until death;
let no one help him. (ESV)
The first thing of note here is that for all but the most amoral, murder is a burden. As the Schofield Kid learned, killing does not bring you status or self-worth. Instead, it places a weight on the soul that, humanly speaking, can never be removed. Even after all the murders he had committed, Billy Munny felt the weight of his actions.

But this burden is not enough. Proverbs tells us that a murder should have no safe harbor. He will flee until captured and has been made to pay for his crime. No one should shelter or hide him (let no one help him). Of all crime, murder is the first called out in the Scriptures, and a penalty is clearly specified:
And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. (Genesis 9:5-6 ESV)
Murder is a grievous act against another human (You take away all he's got an' all he's ever gonna have), but even more heinous is that it is an act of violence against the image of God. Therefore, it demands the harshest retribution. Even in the New Testament, Paul says in Romans 13:4 that governments have the authority for capital punishment.

Remember that when Paul wrote those words he was not under a kind or just government. He was telling his Roman readers to submit to Nero. Nero's authority, just like Nebuchadnezzar's, was derived from God. Rulers have a responsibility, therefore, to enforce this most basic of all laws.

Charles Bridges, in his commentary on Proverbs, writes of this verse:
It is miscalled philanthropy, that protest against all capital punishments. Shall man pretend to be mere merciful than God? Pity is misplaced here. The murderer therefore of his brother is his own murderer.
But this is not where the story ends for Bridges, nor do I think, for us. We are commanded to provide no help for the one who is fleeing. So we support the authorities and aid in capture and not escape. But that doesn't mean we do not offer forgiveness. As Bridges writes:
Yet we must not cast off his soul. Visiting the condemned cell is a special exercise of mercy. While we bow to the stern justice of the great law-giver, joyous indeed it is to bring to the sinner under the sentence of the law, the free forgiveness of the Gospel; not as annulling his sin, but shewing the over-abounding of grace beyond the abounding of sin. (Romans 5:20)
Jesus said that any one of us who is angry with a brother is a murderer (Matt 5:21-22). Let us therefore not pass final judgment on another. And if we should preach the gospel to the murderer, what sin can one commit that we should not preach the gospel to them?

Postscript: This is the second post I've made on Wednesday from Proverbs with the aid of Charles Bridges' commentary. I think I may continue this pattern, hence the WoW. I stated here that BoB's in engineering terminology was "best of the best" though I use it here for "Best of the Blogs". WoW's are "worst of the worst" in my vocation, but here it is "Wisdom on Wednesdays".

Having said that, I must make apologies to Pastor Hunter for (1) stealing his title, and (2) adding to his teaching. Patrick has been going through Proverbs during the evening service for a significant period of time (even he will admit it's been a long series). He's taking larger sections and looking at them briefly. What is more of a statement about how my mind works than his teaching, I frequently find myself captivated by a single verse (or maybe two). These posts have grown out of that "fixation". So while he has undoubtedly influenced the content, he should not be blamed for the content.


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