What Men by Nature Are

Yesterday afternoon I read of Henry Martyn’s first experiences of India. When Martyn arrived in India, in 1806, the English, Dutch and many European countries were fervantly busy in empire building and war was common. Martyn’s responsibilities with the East India Company included serving as a Military Captain. As he watched men suffer and die he looked upon them regardless of race, but instead looked upon them as souls needing a Saviour. On one occasion he wrote,

“Every observation of this sort which I hear cuts me to thevery heart; whether from nature or grace, I do not know, but I had rather be trampled upon than be the trampler. I could find it more agreeable to my own feelings to go and weep with the relatives of the men whom the English have killed, than to rejoice at the laurels they have won. “

Later Martyn reflected as he observed a battle field,

“I lay down on the border of a clump of shrubs and bushes with the field of battle in view, and there lifted up my soul to God. Mournful as the scene was, I yet thanked God that He had brought me to see a specimen, though a terrible one, of what men by nature are. May the remembrance of this day ever excite me to pray and labour more for the propagation of the Gospel of peace. Then shall men love one another: ‘Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

Soon after reading this a barrage of news alerts, Twitter updates and Facebook posts begin narrating the fall of Sirte, the attempted escape of Gaddafi, his capture and then subsequent death.

This year we have seen the capture and punishment of tyrants in ways not available to previous generations. And as Gaddafi was captured, beating and paraded through Sirte I could not help struggling internally.

In human terms Gaddafi deserved every thing he got. His suffering in the last few weeks and his torment of fear in his last few moments may about equal that which he caused countless thousands of other’s during his life time. But I also could not help thinking of the fear he must have felt, probable regrets, the desparate pleading for mercy, a mercy which he never felt for others.

As a British citizen and with family in the military I want to clearly state that I support the troops who fight and die for my freedoms. They pay a price in their lives and with their lives that no amount of money could make worthwhile. They do it for better reasons.

But as a Christian, looking beyond my earthly, national citizenship, and trying to view people as simply souls needing a Saviour, I cannot rejoice in the death of an earthly enemy. I cannot enter into the glory of war. I am thankful when those fighting for my freedoms, when my loved one’s survive, but I cannot rejoice in another’s death.

As Christians we need to move beyond nationality. God is not on any nation’s side (though nations can choose to be on God’s side). It is strange that some of the strongest dispensationalist preachers I know are also guilty of making their nations like Israel during time’s of war… I guess those are toes to tread on another day.

Anyway, yes Gaddafi deserved to die, yes I am glad his tyrannical rule is over, yes I sympathise with those families who have sought justice. But I will not rejoice in his death or the death of any enemy.

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