A Life By The Sword

Cell phone video has already brought us so much bizarre material that I was surprised to find myself deeply unsettled by the footage that came out of Libya last week.

The images of former Libyan Dictator Moammar Gadhafi meeting his grim end were so disturbing that I couldn’t watch.  As I thought about his demise it struck me that most of us don’t get to pick how we will die… only how we will live.

Gadhafi lived out many peculiar eccentricities,  not the least of which was a predilection for things embellished with gold.  Much like Saddam Hussein, Moammar surrounded himself with golden statues, televisions, even bathroom fixtures.

He took great pride in a gold-plated 9mm Browning Hi-Power pistol, keeping it tucked into his pants at all times.

For the better part of three decades Gadhafi has been incapacitated by, at best, a severe narcissism.  The grizzly and public way in which he met his fate made me glad that I live in the United States.

Dragged out of a sewer culvert, the former leader was subject to a baying mob that howled for vengeance.

We tend to believe that we have serious problems in America.  Immigration, Taxation, and Health Care are all issues that clearly need to be tackled, but when it comes to the daily issues that concern the average citizen; we are doing really well here.

When you hear people talking about how Gadhafi died, they usually justify the circumstances surrounding his death by pointing out the way that he lived:

They say that the Colonel was a murdering despot whose regime of systematic brutality is responsible for the rape and torture of the people he was meant to be responsible for.

They’ll go on to tell you that he lived lavishly on the receipts of oil, sold to foreign powers, while his people lived in poverty, deprivation, and fear.

Then they’ll ask you if he deserved any less than what he got?

While each of these assertions is almost certainly true, it doesn’t change the fact that an insane, wounded, and impotent old man had his hair pulled out, was beaten, then shot, and as you read this, is still on display in a meat refrigerator.

As much as we rail against the flaws of our justice system, It’s important to note that this type of cruelty isn’t acceptable in America.

While it could be convincingly argued that Gadhafi deserved more than he actually got, it’s difficult to ignore how disgusting “what he got” actually was… which is really quite ironic because Gadhafi’s involvement in anything was usually cause for disgust.

This is a man who claimed that his daughter was killed in a U.S. airstrike and then made her live in seclusion for 25 years so that he could get a little sympathy.

This is a man who gave General Idi Amin pointers on how to run a ruthless, racist regime in Uganda, eventually sending Libyan soldiers to die for it.

Gadhafi prided himself on close friends and admirers who ran countries like their own franchised houses of horror: Slobodan Milosevic,  Mengistu Haile, and Charles Taylor.

Hiding in that sewage drain, Gadhafi was wearing gold lamé pants.  Tucked into those pants was his golden pistol.

The Colonel’s “dog in the street” death was not just brutal, it was humiliating.  The kind of humiliation he spent a final, desperate decade trying to avoid.

Years ago his foolish pride and selfish greed climaxed in a powerful dictatorial crescendo.  Last week it ended in a downfall that mirrored his cruel and shameful life.

This is a good reminder for us to be careful about how we live out the years we have on this planet because for good or for ill, how we live usually plays a significant role in how we die.

 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” -Matthew 26:52

Jesus makes it clear to us that a life achieved by taking up arms ends also ends that way, especially when those arms are precious to us.

Amidst the jeering, clamoring mob that had gathered near the sewage culvert, a jubilant young man bounced frantically in celebration.  In his hands… the gold plated pistol.

10 Responses to “A Life By The Sword”

  1. Sean Harvey October 25, 2011 at 11:53 am #

    Well said Jon.

    • Jon October 25, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

      Thanks Sean, hope you are doing well bro.

  2. Sharon O October 25, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

    I didn’t watch it either. There is nothing glamorous about a murder even if he was a ‘terrible’ leader. The media needs to be more careful in showing these types of ‘moments’ we do not want to become so familiar with them that they become ‘something’ easy for us to watch. It is good that is makes us sick, that means we have compassion and a sensitive spirit.

    • Jon October 25, 2011 at 4:37 pm #

      It was really grim… Imagine being there and wanting to see it… those people have been put through hell.

  3. John Woolley October 25, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

    Ruthless despot and still could get promoted above colonel?

    • Jon October 25, 2011 at 4:37 pm #

      I assume he was promoted past”Major Problem” a long time ago.

  4. Josh October 25, 2011 at 5:12 pm #

    I choose to live by the sword being a part of this counrty’s armed forces, believeing that I am a part of Gods sword, and if I die by the same means, I am ok with that. Of course I have never been capable of the heinous acts men like him have committed, but I have taken human lives from this world…men like him. Not in a howling mob of course, but in as surgical procedure as possible while avoiding collateral. Where does that put me?

    • Jon October 25, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

      It puts you in a position that people should be grateful for and humbled by.

      Taking the responsibility to become an instrument of justice comes with a heavy price tag, regardless of whether or not you are ever asked to pay it. That you are willing to is the difference between heroic action and villainy.

      Men like Gadhafi are more interested in charging “the fee” than they are “paying it.”

      You may not get to pick how you die, none of the Rangers dragged through the streets of Mogadishu in 1993 got to, but how you choose to live as that instrument of justice will determine how you are remembered.

      We remember those men with honor.

      Death by the sword may come to a soldier, but death by the sword is only dishonorable when the life lived by the sword was.

      Thanks for standing against the howling mobs and the chaos of injustice on behalf of your brothers in arms and the people you love at home. Without men and women like you, there is no right to “a trial by jury” and “innocent before proven guilty.”

      Proud of you and I love you bro.

  5. Josh October 26, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    Thanks John… That really does help to hear…. Most nights I sleep fine, sometimes I wonder.

    • Matt G November 2, 2011 at 9:46 am #

      Josh – There is a difference between the judicious use of lethal force to protect yourself, others and your country and murder. These dictators of whom John spoke are murderers. You are a warrior, much needed in these troubled times. Take peace in Psalm 144:1-2. Some of us are called to be defenders. Defend well. May God give you peace, protection and a blessed life.

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