On Thursday, August 20th 2009, Abdel Basset Al-Megrahi, the man who was convicted of murdering 270 men, women, and children on Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988, safely returned to his home country of Libya as a free man. All this took place because the Scottish government felt compassion for Al-Megrahi in view of the fact that he has terminal prostate cancer – it would appear that he doesn’t have long to live.
Fortunately for Al-Megrahi, his flight home was a safe and uneventful one.
It is an odd subtext to Al-Megrahi’s story: the man who murdered scores of human beings by blowing up their airplane, safely travelled home in…an airplane. But there is a reason why his flight was safe and uneventful: it is because Al-Megrahi lives in a world that is, to a greater extent, civil and orderly. Despite the darkness of Mr Al-Megrahi’s own beliefs, many in the world today still hold to a belief in something that is called free agency: a concept that Mr. Al-Megrahi considers to be a reprehensible threat to Islam. You see, free agency stipulates that human beings are free to account for their own thoughts and actions as individuals. At a very fundamental level, this doctrine is rooted in the Old Testament Scriptures (Ezekiel 18:20). The opposite of free agency would be the belief which says that people aren’t free to live as the advocates of their own thoughts and actions. In other words – those who deny free agency often resort to the destruction of those who have a differing belief system. In Mr Al-Megrahi’s language, this would be summarized in the expression: “slay the infidel” (Surah 8:7, 9:5, 47:4).
It is this principle of free agency and personal responsibility that enables free societies to exist, subsist, and even thrive. Even a moderately studied student of early American history well knows that our own nation was founded on this very principle of free agency. It enables freedom of religious belief, freedom of uncertainty, and even freedom of unbelief.
In brief, free agency removes vengeance from the hands of fallible men, even enabling those who deny such a principle to “fly the friendly skies.”
As for Scotland’s gesture of “compassion” towards this mass murderer, we must remember that compassion without justice is nothing more than corrupt human sentimentality (Genesis 9:6). As Christians we know that the injustice of this event will be fully and perfectly handled by the One who alone has the right of redemption and vengeance.