Theologian John Piper isn’t known for giving good advice. He has said a man’s sex dreams were a sign from God, that mass shootings are a way for God to convince more people to come to Jesus, and that God was using COVID to punish gay people who act on their desires.
But this time, for once, Piper wasn’t the problem. It was the person asking him for advice.
On his podcast, Piper read a question from someone who wanted to know if Christians serving on a jury had an obligation to find the defendant “not guilty” — regardless of what the evidence says — because the Bible calls for forgiveness. The questioner referenced John 8:1-11, in which Jesus sets an adulterous woman free when the law says she deserved to be stoned.
This person seriously seems to think a murder suspect who would undoubtedly be found guilty should go free because that’s supposedly what Jesus wants. In fact, the writer said the question came from his nephew, whose professor at a private Christian college called for that outcome.
It’s frightening to know anyone would think that way — much less someone who could be on a jury. It’s even scarier to know a professor is telling his students to buy into that line of thinking.
So what did Piper have to say about it?
The good news is he rejected the idea of always finding people not guilty. The bad news is he got there in the most complicated way imaginable.
Piper responded that he believed the event [in the Bible] was the way in which Jesus was showing how the Church would be “distinct from ethnic, political, geographic Israel” and would not be “governed as a national, political, geographic body politic with civil laws regulating, for example, capital punishment, the way Israel was.”
“Rather, the church, the new people of God, will not be a political or ethnic or geographic reality, but it will be governed by the law of Christ, which introduces significant changes from the law of Moses,” said Piper.
Piper then stressed that he didn’t believe the passage called for Christians selected to be on juries to acquit the guilty, noting that the New Testament was full of commands for governing officials to mete out justice on evildoers and the Church was commanded to enact discipline on members who sin.
He got to the right answer, at least.
He could have just flipped the tables around: If someone was on trial for killing your family member, and all evidence pointed to the suspect’s guilt, wouldn’t you want that person found guilty? Facing the consequences of the judicial system (when it actually works) doesn’t mean you can’t forgive, if you feel so inclined, but it also doesn’t mean everyone should be let off the hook. There are cases in which society is better off with dangerous people behind bars.
From the Christian perspective, justice is God’s alone, anyway — no matter what a jury says. That ought to make the whole question moot.
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