U.S. Embassy Bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, Africa.
(Adapted and excerpted from a Ft. Worth Star Telegram Religious news article)
In the aftermath of the two bombings at U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, many Americans are calling for our government to retaliate in the Old Testament way commonly characterized as "an eye for an eye". While some may view these cries for vengeance as a bold response to what National Security Advisor Sandy Berger correctly described as "an act of unadulterated evil," There are principled, even biblical, reasons for state-sponsored retaliation.
However, before such an argument can be engaged, a proper biblical foundation must be laid: The concept of retributive justice must be defined in personal vs. government contexts, as well as in the contexts of the New Testament.
The New Testament takes a vastly different approach from the Old Testament Law. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus argued that, regarding personal offenses, the principle of "an eye for an eye" must be set aside in favor of "turning the other cheek" (Matthew 5:38-42). In this context, "turning the other cheek" means granting personal forgiveness for an offense committed against one's person.
Thus, for example, if we, as an individual are assaulted, we have a responsibility to forgive our assailant, entrusting his ultimate judgment to God, "who judges justly" (I Peter 2:23).
Yet, notwithstanding our personal forgiveness, the government nevertheless retains responsibility for acting as God's proxy on our behalf in bringing the criminal to justice and punishing him for his crime.
As the Apostle Paul suggests in his epistle to the Romans, governing authorities (even pagan, corrupt ones, as existed in Paul's day) have a responsibility to God to serve the public good and act in the best interests of the people they serve (Romans 13:1-7).
This self-evident truth underlies a fundamental principle of diplomatic relations: A sovereign government has the right to protect its citizens and defend them against acts of aggression. To be sure, as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has said, "We have to be absolutely sure we have the facts straight" before engaging in retaliatory measures.
Nevertheless, the Clinton administration can and should pursue a course of action designed to bring retributive justice against those who so mercilessly attacked our citizens. To do less is to forsake the governments responsibility to the American people.