Lutherans make a distinction between the “left-hand” kingdom and the “right-hand” kingdom and for good reason. God rules the civil realm (Kingdom of Power) by the sword, and He rules in the Church (the Kingdom of Grace) by His Word and Gospel. These two kingdoms are confused when the civil government acts like the Church in showing mercy and forgiveness to criminals rather than punishing them and when the Church acts like the civil government and rules by power and force. The duty of the civil kingdom is to reward those who do well and to punish the evil doer.
Rom 13:4 “for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”
The Church on the other hand must be a place of forgiveness and mercy.
This is an extremely helpful distinction, I think, especially when speaking of current affairs. Some people today (including close friends of mine) do not like the fact that the United States and Israel are waging war against terrorists, because innocent people are being hurt by this. They think that we need to “cool off” a bit, and let the diplomats go to work. Israel and the U.S. (and the U.K. I might add) are looked at as the “evildoers” rather than the ones who actually picked these fights to begin with (e.g. Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda Terrorists). This is a confusion of the kingdoms I think. I think it is entirely within the bounds of the catholic Faith to support the work of those who are “ministers of God’s wrath” for those who do wrong and who wish to bring disorder and chaos to the world. Our President and other world leaders are not called to show mercy towards wanton killers, but to bring them to justice. That is their divinely established Office. Meanwhile, the Church, God’s Kingdom of Grace, should pray for all our enemies, for our fellow Christians who are suffering as a result of the military engagements, and give thanks to God for leaders who are not afraid to confront these killers.
As a pastor, my duty is not to rule by power or force but to preach the Word of God. My duty is to bestow forgiveness upon those who repent of their sins, and to withhold forgiveness from those who do not repent. My duty is to feed the sheep of Christ, and to pray for everyone. The duty of a President, however, is to secure the protection of our nation and its people. His office demands that those who would threaten our national security are brought to justice so that they are not allowed to thrive. The reason that there is conflict still today in the Lebanon area is that the Muslim extremists have never been dealt with the way that they ought.
I have no problem theologically with what our country and with what Israel is doing in response to a 30 year history of terrorist attacks. What other options do we have? You cannot bargain with men who use women and children as shields, and who strap bombs to their children and teach them to hate the West, and, I might add, Christians. They must be dealt with according to the full severity of the Law and Justice. War is hell, no doubt about it. But some wars must be fought so that people do not have to live in fear. Remember, Hitler and Stalin were saying some of the same things as these terrorist leaders.
Final thought: Let the Church be the Church—a place of refuge for sinners; and let the civil government be the civil government—“ministers of God’s wrath on the evildoer.”