Saturday, November 08, 2014

Kidnapping Is Nothing New To The Bible -- Exodus 21:16

“And he who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.”
Way back in Genesis (chapters 37), we read about Joseph’s older brothers pulling off the first recorded kidnapping when they plotted against him and then sold him to a group of  Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver, supposedly for him to become a slave.
And now many years later, God is telling the Israelites that kidnapping is punishable by death. We note that God does not differentiate between “stealing someone” (kidnapping) or “stealing them with another end in mind” (selling, sex trade, other forms of slavery, terrorist training, etc.).  We are not to have any control over another person’s life save and except the control God ordains as godly parents over our children, as godly spouses over each other, or as godly employers over our employees.  Any other control over and above that against an individual’s will is not God-ordained.
Some readers may wonder whether I missed one more type of control allowed by God and that is through church leadership.  I did not.  Contrary to what a good number of church or other religious leaders do, there is no room for control over others in a faith-based organization in God’s economy.  If you are being controlled by your religious leader against your free will, against your better judgment, and/or against what you believe the Scriptures say about something, then my strong advice to you is to pray for wisdom, discretion, and courage to rely fully on God and get out of that church as quickly as possible.  If you do not, consider yourself kidnapped – and you now know from the verses we are studying here that God is against that.  I encourage you to move on.  More on that below.
As I reflected on the story of Joseph and his brothers and tried to relate it to our verses here, another question came to mind.  “Who is to do the punishing and when?”  Clearly at the time of Joseph’s kidnapping, God had not yet given the people of Israel His ordinance against kidnapping as He did here in Exodus 21.  So we could not expect some other relatives of Joseph’s father Jacob to have implemented the punishment even when they found out who was responsible many years later.  But now that we have this ‘law’, what are we to do in the case of kidnapping?
The best place to look for answers to difficult questions is in Scripture itself.  When the plan of God for mankind is taken in its entirety, we can come closer to answering the question, “How then shall we live?”  With that in mind, first, we have to realize that in the New Testament Jesus Christ introduces a new variable that must be considered.  When true repentance is made, when forgiveness is sought sincerely, and when behavior is changed, then grace must be extended, even with respect to kidnapping.  Second, the legal penalty (the consequences assigned by the law of the land) must still be met.
Another issue that often arises with respect to kidnapping is whether or not a family should pay any ransom demanded by the kidnappers, or whether a nation should pay the ransom demanded by terrorist or other enemy kidnappers?  As you know countries around the world differ on that matter.  You can read more about that here: Meeting Ransom Demands.
Let us take this to the personal level in two ways.  First, would you or I pay ransom money to get our loved one back, or expect our government to do so if one of our loved ones had been kidnapped?  Personally, I cannot answer the question unequivocally.  I suppose that much depends on the circumstances.  The Bible talks about the punishment of kidnapping, it does not make comment on negotiating with kidnappers.  So, there is no morally correct answer here to my way of thinking.  In the adult courses that I teach, I advise participants to simply say, “it depends” whenever they are stumped by one of my questions.  Also, it often does indeed “depend”.  In the issue at hand here, I believe I would weigh whether paying ransom would simply encourage more kidnapping of the loved ones of others who may not be able to pay and thus result in the deaths of those kidnapped or whether this is a one-off situation where the kidnappers simply were after my specific loved one, in which case I would push for the paying of the ransom.
The second way I would take this matter to the personal level is by asking whether or not you or I actually “kidnap” anyone in one form or another? commences its definition of the verb ‘kidnap’ as follows: “to steal, carry off, or abduct by force or fraud.”  I thought of how some of us may have done or are doing that in our lives right now.  Here are some examples:
1.     In our cosmopolitan cities or world that we live in, there are more and more cases of “child brides/grooms” or “arranged marriages” for very young individuals.  If our spouse is with us still, but not out of his/her own volition but because our culture or one’s parents forced him/her on us, then it is possible for him/her to be a victim of kidnapping.
2.     If we enticed our spouse to marry us with lies of what we were or owned, etc., and once told, she/he could well feel kidnapped by the world’s definition as fraud was involved.
3.     And then there is the issue of how we deal with children of divorce with respect to visitation.  Are we forcing them to join one parent or another, be it permanently or periodically, against their will because of our own ‘right to do so’?  If so, could this be a form of ‘kidnapping’?  The age of the child is a major factor here.  You cannot allow a toddler to say, “No, I won’t visit with . . .”.  [Clearly there are laws and practices that have been established in our society to address this, but are they right?]
4.     And finally, any abduction or kidnapping either by force or enticement or lies for the purposes of any type of sex trade is indeed atrocious, an action for which there is absolutely no excuse.
I am not in any way promoting divorce as being the remedy in the case of the first two examples above -- far from it.  I am however suggesting that the forced marriage, the enticing lies, etc., need to be admitted to and the couple involved need to move towards a godly relationship that has dealt with the action or words that caused the problem and becomes one where grace abounds, making room for the relationship to grow in love and understanding.
In our third example involving visitation rights, what is best for the child should always be the priority concern of both parents.  In addition, a child’s own preference can sometimes be altered by an honest change in behavior of the parent they would otherwise prefer to avoid.  And a loving parent would make those adjustments in his/her life for the sake of their child. When all that is in place, the parents can be united in how the visiting is to be undertaken and encouraged.
We cannot leave this passage without returning to the “kidnapping” that often occurs by Christian leaders, be they pastors or leaders of a religious organization.  This kind of ‘kidnapping’ can come in many forms.  Some examples are:
1.     Ideological kidnapping where a pastor or leader insists all members of his/her following prescribe to a specific way of thinking or behaving that is “extra-scriptural” – that is, while perhaps not detrimental to one’s life (although it often is – be it psychologically or emotionally or physically), it is certainly not a requirement made by the Word of God.  And if one does not go along with his/her request, he/she is ex-communicated from the body (reverse kidnapping) or held prisoner (in one form or another).  Some examples that come to mind include: what constitutes true repentance and forgiveness from God (demanding a person go through a man-ordained process vs. dealing with God); not trusting in medicine or science for medical treatment; or not breaking bread or having fellowship with certain people/groups/etc.
2.     Financial kidnapping where a pastor or leader convinces all of his/her flock to become sacrificially committed (to the point of living in poverty or not being able to provide for their families) to one of his/her projects and actually causing people to feel guilty if they are not “all in”.  All the time, this same leader may be living comfortably and even extravagantly.  Another example here may be demanding that a person tithe strictly to the leader’s church and nowhere else.
3.     Influential kidnapping where one Christian leader who is a superior in a church or an organization goes on a campaign against others and in the process influences younger leaders or workers under their care to join him/her when in reality the problem is not between the younger workers and those whom the more senior worker is fighting.
In all of these examples, people get hurt, the name of Jesus is tarnished, and the work of the church or the organization is set back or completely destroyed some times.  In all cases, the Enemy sneers and rubs his hands with glee.
Woe to those Christian pastors and leaders who kidnap their sheep.  Woe to a husband or wife who kidnaps their spouse.  Woe to a parent who kidnaps his/her children.  Any form of kidnapping is something God hates or He never would have established this ordinance.
We can and must extend forgiveness to another person.  But only God can and does extend forgiveness to both the person and the sin.

[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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