Two wrongs don’t make a right…or do they?

Two wrongs don’t make a right…or do they? July 21, 2011

When children repay violence with violence, we say, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

When governments repay violence with violence, we say, “Justice was served.”

I know most people reading this already have verses popping into their heads- maybe from Numbers 35, or even Romans 13. I know several people are already drumming up off-the-wall scenarios to question me with in the comments, and others are probably going to say something about Hitler.

But let’s put all these verses and scenarios aside for a moment (feel free to leave them in the comments, but please hear me out first!) and think about that little phrase that we all heard over and over again as children: “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Do we really believe that? Or do we believe that two wrongs make justice?

Some people in this world do terrible things. And it’s easy to think to ourselves, “If anyone deserves death, it’s the murderers or the child abusers or the terrorists or…”

But do two wrongs make a right?

Does killing to show killers that killing is wrong work?

Do wars really lead to peace?

Or do we really believe in the redeeming grace of Jesus that turns murders into missionaries, and soldiers into saints?

Two wrongs don’t make a right. But one wrong- the undeserved execution of Jesus Christ- has the power to make everything right.

Do we really believe that? And if we did, would we be so quick to stand behind our government’s cheap, human version of justice?

I wonder…

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  • Excellent post! Good insights. Thank you

  • I understand what you’re trying to say, Sarah, and you have a good point. the fact is, it’s a fallen world and some people won’t stop hurting others until they’re made to stop. yes, war is a terrible thing, but failing to stand up to evil when we can is just as bad. so…I have no quick easy answer for the questions you raise, but David was one of God’s favorite dudes, and he was a warrior. Jesus didn’t refuse to heal the centurion’s servant because the guy was a soldier, and he didn’t ask him to change his profession that we know of. of course God calls all of us to a different calling, but don’t ignore the fact that some feel called to protect, and in this world, that means sometimes going to war to save someone. so, I get what you’re trying to say…but, it’s a big issue.

    • Jesus is our model, the One we look to emulate. While David was thought of as a man after God’s own heart, Jesus if God Himself.

      How does Jesus handle evil? How does He respond to violence?

      At Gethsemane Peter, ready for battle, pulls the sword cuts off the ear of the guard. Jesus tells him to put the weapons of this world away, then heals the injured man’s ear. So we see Jesus message as one that subverts the common wisdom that we defend against violence with violence. This is a call to radical love, love of enemy even when that enemy comes to do you violence. This love that Jesus models and asks us to emulate undermines the systems of this world that lead to and cause violence.

      Common worldly wisdom seems to suggest that we can end violence and hate by utilizing hate and violence. But that is like when the oppressed revolt and then become the oppressor. The very act of oppressing oppresses both the oppressed and those whom he oppresses. Violence committed to others also does violence to us. Jesus recognizes this. The only way to end violence, the only way to peace is through non-violence. Counter-intuitive? Yes it is. Easy to accept? Absolutely not.

      Sarah doesn’t explicitly mention it, but I’m kinda on one, the death penalty serves no useful purpose. It has absolutely no deterrent effect on crime. The argument that it protects society is false because these people we execute are already in prison and no longer able to harm society. It does serve to rob us of our humanity, to make us like those we execute, because bottom line we demand it based on emotion not reason, therefore it serves only our blood lust, our desire for vengeance

      So, Sarah is right, the way of Jesus, is the only way to bring peace to the world to expand the Kingdom of Heaven.

      • Paul, of course you have some great points in your reply, but I have to raise another point [hopefully without sounding like a jerk 🙂 because no offense is intended!]: pacifism is an exercise in academics. it’s a hypothetical thing entirely, because you don’t know if you could stop yourself from defending yourself/others if the time ever came for it. also, your right to BE a pacifist [I’m assuming you are, though you haven’t said so explicitly] is protected, every day, by those willing to be violent on your behalf. I respect your views and the Lord calls us all to different things, but Jesus wasn’t a pacifist that I know of. he was forceful as well as gentle, and strong as well as merciful. I’m not a pacifist because nowhere in the Bible do I see God forbidding us to take up arms in a just cause. I can’t be a pacifist when I know that the world will harm the innocent if the strong don’t protect them.

      • itinerantmezzo I, of course, respect your opinion. I know what I would do if someone I love was being attacked: My actions would not line up with my words, nor have they in the past. I have to live with the violence I responded with and the injuries I inflicted. Cognitively I know I did the right thing, the States Attorney refusing to prosecute saying it was justified doesn’t assuage the lingering feeling that I could’ve handled things differently without the great bodily harm.And I know that I would react similarly in a similar circumstance, defending someone I love who could not defend herself. It is a dark side of me that I might wish were not there, but there it is. I do not defend myself to that degree. I can and have many times turned the other cheek, when only I was the victim of offended party.

        I think that the issue is complicated and I am in no position to make the decision for anyone else. Nor do I condemn anyone who does not hold to my opinion. I do not think that no matter how complicated the issue that those who revel in the destruction of others is right (I am in no way saying that you fit into this category).

      • good points from everyone. I think I need to write about this topic some more.

    • very true, it is a big issue. and I definitely respect those like you who feel called to protect. I just wonder if our military couldn’t be put to better use. Maybe our government could send them to help other nations without killing them. But you’re right. it’s a big issue.

  • phantommullet

    Three lefts do though ;D

    • hah! I kept thinking of that while writing this.