Lording it over life

By: Jason A. Baguia April 07,2017 - 10:40 PM


Sen. Emmanuel Pacquiao tried to wear the theologian’s gown in his campaign for the return of capital punishment to the Philippine penal code.

In August 2016, addressing opponents, he asked, “Are we greater than God because God is allowing death penalty in every nation and country?”

In January 2017, he said, “Even Jesus Christ was sentenced to death by the government.”

A friend of mine from high school justified state-sponsored executions by referencing the destruction of the Egyptians who pursued the Israelites in the Passover.

Another friend, from college, cited the Israelite march around Jericho and the resulting death-dealing fall of its walls as proof of divine approval for killings.

I am no theologian, but I encourage fellow Christians to review the life and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ in the gospels instead of behaving as if

Jesus, the Word made flesh, never introduced a living standard that transcends the law’s minimums.

At the heart of the gospel, we find the new commandment. Jesus said, “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples — when they see the love you have for each other.”

How did Jesus love? Let us count some ways.

The religious authorities caught a woman in the act of adultery. They brought her to Jesus. They reminded him of the law — adulterers shall be stoned to death.

Jesus took his time before replying.

He bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt.

It was a beautiful moment. Our Lord brought his audience back to the beginning, when “God formed man out of dirt from the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life.”

Jesus then rose and said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” He bent down once more and continued writing in the dirt.

The woman’s accusers, starting from the oldest, walked away. Jesus and the woman conversed.

“Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?”

“No one, Master.”

“Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.”

When the time for his ascension drew near, Jesus wanted to pass through a village in Samaria en route to Jerusalem. The villagers barred him because they knew his destination.

“Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” the apostles James and John said in response. They sounded reasonable. In the final judgment, refusal to welcome the stranger is a basis for a person to be thrown out of the king’s presence and into eternal punishment.

But in Saint Luke’s account, “Jesus turned and rebuked them.”

In Gethsemane, when Jesus was about to be arrested, the apostle Peter drew his sword and struck the high priest’s slave, cutting off his ear.

“Put away your sword,” Jesus told the apostle. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword.” Jesus restored the slave Malchus’ ear.

In the debate about reviving the death penalty, we Christians either hold our peace or draw our swords against others thereby claiming our own deaths by the sword.

We either move on from those who violate us or call down fire on them and earn Jesus’ rebuke.

We stand either with those who thumped the law’s stone tablets and were ready to stone sinners to death, or with Jesus, who wrote in the pliant dirt a reminder that each of us is clay in the hands of a life-giving potter whose merciful hands have power to remold us even after we get wasted.

I invite my Christian friends to meditate upon the fall of Jericho and the destruction of Egyptians as allegories of triumph over sin in the spiritual life rather than as biblical support for capital punishment.

I encourage Senator Pacquiao to reread what Jesus did after He was crucified, died and was buried.

On the third day, He rose again.

Was that not a heavenly repudiation of government-sponsored killings?


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TAGS: Christ, Jesus, life, over, Pacquiao
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