It’s been all over the news: the death of Muammar Gaddafi, former Libyan dictator guilty of the murder of thousands of innocents under his regime. A disturbing video was released early Thursday morning showing the capture and apparent death of the besieged “king of kings,” as rebel forces converged on the city of Sirte where he and his remaining officers were in hiding. The video shows the beaten and bloody Gaddafi being dragged and shoved between groups of soldiers after his capture. It then shows him apparently being brutally beaten and finally shot by one of the soldiers. The video is truly disturbing (a warning to any who might be curious – it is graphic) and poses an even more disturbing question: were the actions of the rebel soldiers responsible for his brutal treatment and death, any better then those committed by Gaddafi himself during his rule?
When all is said and done, the simple answer is no. In Matthew 5:44 Christ says, “But I tell you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you!” This of course is one of the key Scriptural verses which shows the evil of revenge in any context, whether it be as simple as a grudge or an extreme case of tyranny. Of course one might hear from a citizen of Libya that he deserved his fate, that he “got what was coming to him,” and that the soldiers should be hailed as national heroes, rather than as men who killed a war criminal in cold blood. Do I empathize with the previous plight of the Libyan citizens? Absolutely – and of course the thoughts and actions of citizens embittered by war and a deep-seated fear for their lives cannot be simply ignored.
However, Muammar Gaddafi was as much a child of God as any of us. While he took it upon himself, in many instances, to decide who lives and who dies, that does not give us the right to act in a like manner. Christ said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) and “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Thus to achieve heaven, to return to our true home we must be Christ-like in every way.
This leads to my final point of reflection. The first word of Christ on the cross were, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Christ willingly gave His life for mankind, for the forgiveness of sins. When He was on the cross, instead of crying out in pain or rebuking those who were killing him, he asked His heavenly Father to forgive them. We are called, then, to “forgive those who trespass against us,” to choose to forgive those who commit even the gravest of wrongdoings, for to do so is to act like Christ.
We should pray for the citizens of Libya, pray that the Holy Spirit may work in their hearts, to move them to forgive the wrongs they suffered under the rule of Muammar Gaddafi. Finally, let us remember, that even as Judas could have repented of his grievous sin before his death, so too could Gaddafi have repented before the end, and been welcomed into the arms of His Lord and Saviour.
Pray without ceasing friends!