Rulers bear the sword for a reason

blind-justice

Roman justice goddess – blindfolded with sword

Romans 13:4
For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

Governments that serve God well should be agents of wrath that bring punishment on wrongdoers.

Christians should be supporting/advocating government punishment of wrongdoers. As I write this I think this doctrine is too obvious to mention and uncontentious… but I have seen that some Christians think justice has been replaced with “not judging”, forgiveness and mercy. And many people think the purpose of a justice system should be to rehabilitate and/or protect citizens.

Mercy and forgiveness have their place but these are, I believe, an individual’s prerogative – in the same way that generosity is an individuals prerogative. It is not virtuous when the state gives away people’s money against their wishes and neither is it virtuous when the state gives lenient punishments against a victim’s wishes. (Mercy, forgiveness and generosity by proxy are counterfeit virtues.)

Significant disagreements amongst Christians occur when we consider which wrongdoings should be punished. Wrongdoings can be classified as against God (e.g. worshipping other gods, disobedience), against self (e.g. drunkenness, greed, laziness, pride) or against others (e.g. murder, theft, assault).

Wrongdoings against God or self are nobody else’s business – those wrongdoings are between that person and God – as Paul said “Who am I to judge another man’s servant?”

The reason rulers bear the sword is to punish wrongdoers – specifically those who do wrongs against others.

(I thought I was finished… but I guess I’d better add that all punishments should be just i.e. they must not be disproportionate to the wrongdoing… eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, yadda yadda.)

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4 Responses to Rulers bear the sword for a reason

  1. Richard says:

    [Governments] are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

    [Therefore] Governments that serve God well should be agents of wrath that bring punishment on wrongdoers.

    This is a non sequitur. No ought from is! How about a valid argument instead?

    Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. [Matthew 22:21]

    The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it. [Psalm 24:1]

    [Therefore] Don’t pay taxes to the government.

    😀

    • reed says:

      This is a non sequitur. No ought from is! How about a valid argument instead?

      I wasn’t making an argument for followers of Hume. Morality is based on sentiment God’s will. God’s will is the *is* that moral oughts (or shoulds) derive from. (Yes, I know that’s not Hume’s meaning of “derive”.)

      I wasn’t so much making an argument as rephrasing something that is contained in what Paul said. Governments that serve God well should be agents of wrath that bring punishment on wrongdoers… or without the “should”… God’s will for governments is that they serve him by being agents of wrath that bring punishment on wrongdoers. And that is the reason they bear the sword.

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