Before I begin, let me say that this thread does NOT concern metaphorical/spiritual death, nor does it concern the death of someone occurring in any other circumstance but as a result of just punishment, either by law or in war. Neither am I here speaking of death as a gateway for the Christian into the presence of God. I am speaking of physical death, in the here and now, as a result of justice. Indeed, I believe other threads on this and similar subjects have gotten sidetracked by the above issues.
I believe it says somewhere in Ezekiel that God does not rejoice in the death of a man but that He rather wishes for his repentance. This verse has often been used to bar all Christians from celebrating in any sense the death of another person, no matter what the circumstances surrounding it.
However, I do recall reading a number of Scriptural examples where men and even God seem to be celebrating in or rejoicing over the death of men, though, admittedly, I cannot cite particulars, chapter/vers, etc. at present. I believe many examples of this can be found in the psalms and perhaps even in Deborah’s song as well as after Israel escaped the Egyptians through the Red Sea(?). In the very least, as I recall reading, the tone of these particular passages would seem to be a celebratory one. (BTW, if someone could help me out with the chapter/verse stuff, I’d much appreciate it.)
So, how are we to take these latter examples in the light of the passage in Ezekiel?
The best way I can find to do so is that what God is saying here is that He doesn’t take pleasure in the death of a man per se but that He wishes that the man would, rather, repent, therefore, not die and even live more abundantly. God indeed wishes he could live a full life, even though death in his case was the just outcome. It may justly be appointed for him to die, but God would prefer that he would repent. What do you guys think of this interpretation? Is it valid? Why or why not?
(BTW, here is not the appropriate place to discuss the validity of war generally or of the death penalty. Let’s try to keep this thread on the topic at heand. For that purpose, let us just say, for the sake of argument, that we accept death as a just outcome in cases of just war and in at least some, however limited, cases in civil law.)
Now, with this in mind, let us get to the question of whether rejoicing/celebrating the just death of another person, say, by civil law or in just war, is permissible and, if so, in what ways and with what limitations. Now, of course, I believe that rejoicing at someone’s death just because they died is always inherently wrong. What I am wondering about, though, are the following scenarios. Are they valid? Are they morally correct?
We may rejoice at the death of another in the sense that justice has been done in the case of that person’s death. So, I suppose, technically, we are rejoicing in the fact that justice has been done generally, or even, in particular, to that person, while we are not rejoicing that the person died because we bore some personal and absolute hatred toward him or anything like that. Is rejoicing in another’s death because justice has been done generally and/or to that person in particular for his crimes, moral for a Christian?
We rejoice in the death of another, particularly in war but also in other cases, because, through that death, an evil has been mitigated. That evil is no longer around to threaten that which it targeted. And, indeed, that evil man is no longer around to threaten those whom he targeted. Is this scenario, too, valid/moral?
We rejoice in the death of another by rejoicing in our own increased safety and in our leaders who have accomplished that death in order to make us safer. Thus, we celebrate our military when it achieves victories even when the deaths of others that would do us harm (either general foot-soldiers or leaders in charge of evil against us) are involved. Is this moral/valid for a Christian to do?
I get that these are some very fine distinctions and that perhaps even I haven’t entirely fleshed them out. These do, indeed, take a lot of thought on the part of all of us. Are these kinds of distinctions legitimate or are we simply playing a vain game of semantics?
I have always supported the morality of all 3 of the above senarios and have taken the Ezekiel verse to mean that God doesn’t just like to go around killing people. He doesn’t do it out ofsadistic pleasure, but, He seems to say, He, rather, kills or allows killing for the purposes of justice. He would rather not do this, though, because He would rather have them repent of their sins. However, we might argue, when someone dies justly, God might rejoice and/or allow us to do the same for the reasons I stated above.
What do you guys think of all this?