We Have No Right To Execute Anyone
John 18:31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”
“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected.
The bald declaration here on the part of the religious leaders here is almost shocking! Here they were -- religious leaders who supposedly fought to keep every ounce of their religious laws! This is why they were angry with Jesus, they thought that he stretched the rules a bit. Now, they are stretching them to the extreme. They have already decided, in advance, that they want Jesus to be put to death. However, they are not allowed to put him to death, therefore they are willing to go to the government authorities and try to manipulate them into taking this action. Pilate doesn't want to do anything to Jesus, he doesn't even understand the crime that is he is supposed to have committed. The religious leaders openly declare, "But we have no right to execute anyone."
Isn't that the point - they didn't have the right to execute anyone -- and yet, they wanted this evil deed accomplished. On another level, have we ever executed someone by our behavior? Maybe not physically, but have we ever gone out of our way to execute someone emotionally, or to destroy their reputation? We may be executing people by our verbal attacks and we may be manipulating the system just so we can get our revenge.
One of the greatest ways that people are attacking one another these days is by way of the internet. Here is a tool which has the potential for being used for much good, while at the same time, can be manipulated to be destructive. Listening to the radio I heard an advertisement for something like reputation builders.com. They are selling a service that helps to monitor what is being said about you on the internet. Why? Because, the advertisement tells us, just one negative review for you or your business can destroy years of positive reviews. In other words -- just one person's bad comments can "execute" someone, or completely sabotage their business. The problem has become so bad that there these new business' are being developed to help "scrub" what happens in social media.
But, for followers of Jesus Christ this statement ought to ring true -- "We have no right to execute anyone," and as citizens of Jesus' kingdom we must follow that law. Sadly, there are those who may be disappointed in our religious system because we might believe that we ought to be able to get revenge. No, revenge is not an option! The religious leaders went outside their own system to get revenge! Was God pleased? I don't think so. If the kingdom in which we exist does not allow us to "execute" others, maybe we ought to learn to live with that and not seek revenge outside of the kingdom. That means we have to learn to respond to what happens to us from within the kingdom.
Jesus becomes the example for us -- he went ahead and suffered at the hands of the government system because the religious leaders had manipulated it to their benefit. Jesus, however, continues to respond from within God's kingdom. Therefore, even as he is dying on the cross he looks out at the masses and cries out, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." He cries out for mercy for those who have put him on the cross. That means that we too are to cry out for mercy and for forgiveness of those who may try to "execute" us.
We are not to live outside the kingdom or use the things of this world to manipulate our circumstances. We are to live within the kingdom, to be kingdom people -- and that means loving God and loving others. There is no place for revenge within the life of a believer -- there is no execution of others' reputations or character. Just as what the religious leaders did was sinful, so are the acts of those who purposely go about using worldly tactics to execute followers of Jesus Christ.
Lord, please help me, through your grace, to live as a kingdom citizen. Amen.