I don’t often find the “trending” function of Facebook to be helpful. Most often it is informing me of things I really could not care less about. It informs me of actresses I have never heard of coming out as bisexual, it informs me of what people wore to the Oscars, it tells me which NFL team recently released a past-his-prime superstar, but very rarely is it useful.
There are exceptions. I saw an interesting hashtag trending the other day for example: #JusticeForVictoria.
I’ll admit my sin. I judged the situation and immediately assumed it was some Social Justice Warrior propaganda, and thought that the link would lead me straight to the proselytization of secularism (as Secularists are some of the nation’s greatest religious evangelists and preachers.)
But I was wrong, I was unfortunately very wrong.
You likely won’t believe it.
You won’t be able to fathom it.
You likely can’t stomach it.
In Albuquerque New Mexico, on her 10th birthday, a beautiful 10-year-old girl was drugged, raped, choked, and then murdered by stabbing. A drugged out, raped, 10-year-old girl was stabbed to death…by her parents.
Well, there are 3 people in custody awaiting trial. The 3 accused are the girl’s mother, Michelle Martens, Michelle’s boyfriend, Fabian Gonzalez (who was the father figure), and a cousin of Gonzalez, Jessica Kelley.
After this, Victoria’s body was chopped into pieces. Police found most of her remains in a blanket that was set on fire.
(Pray for the first responding officers here, what a horrible thing to have to see.)
Due to these events the entire country is rightly outraged, but only a portion of the country isconsistently outraged.
It needs to be said, (and yes, now is the exact time to say it) that our country is shamefully engaged in hypocrisy that would make the Pharisees blush. Many of the people who weep at the story of Victoria vote and vehemently defend that behavior inside the doors of Planned Parenthoods all across the country.
It’s not the exact same behavior. The children murdered by Planned Parenthood and their accomplices are not drugged or raped. They are merely stabbed to death (or burned, poisoned, flushed, or have their brains sucked out of their skulls). However, if when I woke up that morning and someone asked me if I heard about a dismembered, murdered child, my first thoughts would have been “abortion.”
What happened to Victoria is nearly the same thing that happens to millions of children in our country every year.
The difference is those murdered babies have no vigils; no flowers are laid at the dumpster cans their bodies were thrown in (Provided Planned Parenthood didn’t profit from their body parts).
None of those children are having the nation call for justice. The nation already called for their murder; the nation already ordained it.
Thus, you simply cannot consistently cry out about Victoria if you are pro-choice. It’s either OK to murder children or it’s not. This is black and white. This is simple.
The outcry from pro-choice arguments is to herald women’s rights, and everyone agrees that young Victoria had rights, and that young Victoria had her rights violated. I ask then why do the younger Victoria’s not also have the same rights she had? Why are the even younger, even more defenseless children who are also being murdered by their parents and being stripped from their rights, just like Victoria, have no outcry from the pro-choice people?
I would beg and plead with any and all reading this who support abortion to think about why the protection of Victoria from her mother does not apply to the pre-born as well.
Victoria is another young child that has been murdered in this country, one of millions. But thankfully, unlike the vast majority of child murders, hers will likely receive justice.
What kind of justice is Victoria deserving of then? In cases as horrific as this, it can be hard to answer that question. Especially those who are closer to the child, in their moments of devastation and anger, no amount of suffering for the guilty feels sufficient.
It can be a hard question to define, what is true justice in this situation?
How can justice truly be reached for a crime that, before I read it, was literally unimaginable?
Allow me, in order to get to my ultimate point in this section, to express my personal opinion:
I believe these people (provided they are found guilty in a fair trial) deserve to die. I believe the State should execute these people.
Let me briefly defend that, and then move on to the bigger picture.
Chapter and verse divisions in the Scriptures are a gift to the church. They are needed and they are useful. They are not inspired, but they are a gift, and we owe it to the men who labored to give us these things.
That being said, there are times when the divisions can be unhelpful, and there is one division I particularly believe this is the case for, and that is the division between Romans 12 and Romans 13.
Romans 12 teaches an important principle about vengeance, and that principle is that vengeance is outside of the private citizen’s jurisdiction.
Romans 12: 17-21,
“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Vengeance is the Lord’s; God gets to enact it. Therefore, wherever these accused are being held, no one in that jail cell is permitted to touch them (also, they are, according to Law, innocent right now).
No one who loved Victoria is permitted to break in and kill these people.
The police officers guarding the cell are not permitted to torture these people; they are not to be touched.
If the guilty are found innocent by an blown trial, no one is permitted to hurt them.
Vengeance does not belong to Victoria’s friends, it does not belong to her other family members hurt by this wicked deed, it does not belong to those in the jail cell who heard of the crime. It does not belong to anyone but God. God will deal with these three (provided they are guilty).
Our job, on the contrary, is to love these people, but more on that later.
However, this is where the chapter breaks and begins chapter 13, but it should not. The thoughts in the next chapter are too related to be divided.
Chapter 13 begins now with talk of government. It begins by telling us to submit to the government, as it is instituted by God, and then describes the Government in a contextually crucial way:
Romans 13: 3-5,
“For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 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. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.”
The Government is God’s “servant”. The word used there could also be translated as “deacon” (diakonos). The Government is given an ecclesiastical title. The Government is supposed to work for God. And what is the work the Government has been ordained by God to carry out? Punishment.
“…for [the government] does not bear the sword in vain.”
God has given the Government purpose in bearing the sword, which is a euphemism for killing. The government kills, and that killing is not in vain.
Why is it not in vain? As the text says, “For [the government] is is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath.”
The chapter division often times causes readers to take a break mentally, and then prepare for new content. This is why sometimes a contradiction is sensed between these two chapters.
Chapter 12 tells us to love our enemies, to commands us not to repay evil with evil, and prescribes we trust that vengeance belongs to the Lord. Then suddenly, the next chapter talks about fearing the Government for it will take vengeance.
Does not vengeance belong to the Lord? Why then is the government acting as an avenger?
The answer is that the Lord works through the Government to enact the vengeance that belongs to Him. God says vengeance belongs to Him, and then He says one of the ways He administers that vengeance is through His servant, the Government, who bears the sword.
Thus, in conclusion, the practical way we leave vengeance to the Lord is to not kill people ourselves as citizens or as church members, but to let the government bear the sword. That is why I believe that, should these three people be found guilty, God’s vengeance should come down swiftly, and the sword should be administered to these people, through God’s avenger, the State.
Many Christians are free to, and do, disagree. One of the most compelling arguments I have heard is from John MacArthur. He argues it is better to imprison people long term so they have more time to hear the Gospel and repent.
That is fair. Given the constant emphasis on forgiveness, Gospel preaching, and reconciliation in the New Testament, I don’t think it is a stretch to believe all criminals should be given the chance to constantly hear the Gospel in hope their souls be rescued.
Capital Punishment is not a hill I want to die on or leave churches over. However, many people in the nation who disagree with me do not do so on the basis of a Gospel or Scriptural argument. They do so on the basis of personal feelings about “fairness” and “Justice”.
And so we now circle all the way back to the first question: is true justice for Victoria able to be found?
Many would argue that whomever is guilty should not be executed because that is not harsh enough. They believe a crime such as this deserves something far more severe than a quick, painless death like lethal injection. Many would rather these people be sentenced to life in prison because rotting in a jail cell is worse than death.
But what is this position assuming? This position is assuming a theological doctrine about the afterlife that peace is found in death.
Whenever people die, the American response is “R.I.P.” Rest in Peace. However, the Bible is clear that many people who die do not find peace. In fact, they find themselves in a place where peace is forever an impossibility.
This is why practicing and believing the principle of vengeance belonging to the Lord is, for the Christian, an act of faith.
Justice is such an important thing, that it truly tests our faith when we are forced to believe it really is in God’s hands. It may be tempting to wish the most horrible of things on these people. We are tempted to hope these people likewise get raped, choked, and stabbed to death in prison. Why? Because we simply are not sure or do not trust with complete confidence that they will answer to God for these crimes in the afterlife.
The natural human tendency is to make sure these people get it as bad as they can now just in case this is the last shot they have at receiving justice. If no cosmic justice awaits, it needs to be done right, here and now.
Although hell is usually a topic of scrutiny, under this particular microscope we begin to see clearly God’s goodness in hell. For we know that, although God ordained governments to be His servant for justice, governments often go astray.
Governments are rarely biblical, and never perfect. This means many people are wrongly punished, and many people are wrongly left alone. Is there hope then for justice?
Our final hope is seen when God judges the living and the dead (1 Peter 4: 1-8; 2 Timothy 4:1). Our final hope is found in the 2nd death; the death of death. This is when God will truly give equal recompense to all for what they have done.
“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
This is when Victoria will receive justice, true justice. That is a justice that we nor the government can provide. And what a hope that is. How encouraging that is!
This idea of justice, while in the context of Victoria’s rapists, torturers, and murderers is a blessing and comfort. But in another light, it is terrifying, for we have to remember that Victoria’s murderers will not be at the feet of Jesus alone; They will be in great company, for we will all be there (Philippians 2: 10-11; Romans 14: 10-12).
The whole world, the entire multitude of creation will one day give an account. So perhaps the question is not “What is God going to do with the evil of Victoria’s killers?”, but is actually “What is God going to do with me?”
It is easy to be comforted when we make the standard over ourselves child rapists and child murderers. Certainly, we all feel holy in light of that (even though this country is casually murdering her children).
But the problem is the murderers and rapists who share the prison cell with Victoria’s parents will also feel that same forged holiness. Catch the irony? Prison inmates will feel holy, just like you.
There will be many people in prison that make you feel better about yourself because you have not done what they have done. But many of those same people will look at Victoria’s killers and feel that same arrogant holiness, for they have not done what those people have done.
Should we release from prison all those whose crimes were not as vile as those of Victoria’s guardians?
Should the man who shot a bank teller during his bank robbery, paralyzing the teller forever, be set free? After all, it’s not like he raped, stabbed, choked, drugged and murdered a 10-year-old on her birthday!
If not, the same logic applies to us before His throne. Do we really believe we will escape judgment and be set free simply on the basis that other people did things we did not do?
The point is Victoria’s parents are not the standard for morality; God is. (1 Peter 1:16, Romans 3: 23).
Forget about justice to Victoria’s killers; justice is coming for you too. For you too, like them, fall short of God’s glory.
The fact that you never murdered a child in that way does not mean you are not accountable for your treason against the Lawgiver (James 2: 8-11).
Victoria will one day receive the justice she deserves; complete, whole justice. The question is, what will become of you on that day?
The Offense of Grace
This leads to an interesting thing does: forgives.
Rarely is God’s grace a controversial issue. When sinners want to complain about God, they typically chose to complain about what His Word says about the sinfulness of homosexuality, or gender roles, or God’s order to slaughter the Amalekites. Sinners love to charge God with sin, and rarely is His grace the topic of scrutiny.
But in these moments we see the true extant of God’s grace; we see how deep in the gutter He is willing to go to save. For it is true that Victoria’s killers can go to heaven.
Let that sink in: the people responsible for the drugging, rape, strangling, and stabbing of a 10-year-old girl, on her birthday, murdering her, could be with Jesus one day.
If they ever hear the Gospel and respond in true, authentic repentance and faith, they will be saved. If they ever have their hearts changed by the Spirit, regenerating them, making them born-again, they will be forgiven for all their sins, including their sins against Victoria.
To many, that is far more offensive than homosexuality or gender roles.
However, grace ought not to be offensive. Grace can only be offensive in the vacuum of pride. Only when we think we do not deserve judgment can we get angry when others are not judged. Only when we think we do not need mercy can we be offended when others receive it.
It is good news that there is hope for Victoria’s killers, and that good news is that hope for them means there is hope for sinners like us too.
If God is willing to save them, he is willing to save you. God saves sinners.
We have all fallen short of God’s glory. Whether you have murdered a child or fornicated, whether you have drugged a ten-year-old or have told countless lies, whether you are a practicing homosexual or a practicing glutton, whether you lose your temper, or cower in fear, God will save you.
We have all broken the same Holy Law. We have all transgressed against the same Lawgiver. We have all committed cosmic treason against the King of all Kings. We have all rebelled against Jesus.
May we, in light of that, seek His forgiveness, repent, and believe. May we trust in the crucified Christ to rescue us from the condemnation we have earned.
May we follow the biblical command to love for our enemies (Mathew 5, Mathew 7, Romans 12) by praying for those guilty Albuquerque murderers; pray for their salvation.
Pray for the healing and comfort of all of those involved in this horrific crime.
May all of us have the same cry as David, as we humbly recognize our own sin, and experience the scandalous grace Jesus Christ:
Psalm 51: 1-17,
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”