When we were back in Canada, one of Peter’s cousins recommended the show 12 Monkeys to us. For those of you who don’t know the basic premise, it’s about a plague that kills 7 billion people. The protagonist and his team end up travelling back from the year 2043 to try and undo the release of the plague. We watched an episode, thought we would like it, and put it on the back burner for a while because we were in the midst of watching several other shows at the time.

After our return to Japan, the coronavirus hit. We thought it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to watch 12 Monkeys during a pandemic!

Fast forward to this month. Feeling as though we had reached some sort of equilibrium, we thought we would try the show again.

It’s quite engaging, but we soon found ourselves in shock over the sheer number of murders that take place, both of friend and foe.

I suppose that on some level, the wanton killing makes sense. You don’t want certain information or techniques to fall into the wrong hands, and no one you kill will have been born if you’re successful. In fact, you won’t even have been born. Time will be rewritten, with 7 billion additional people still living.

However, on another level, it’s so deeply disturbing that “normal” people would resort to mass murder to achieve their goals.

And this brings me to the question that has been growing larger and larger in my mind:

Do the ends justify the means?

The only answer I can provide is one from the point of view of a Christian who has been crucified with Christ. I recognize that it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me. The life I now live I live by faith in the one who loved me and gave himself up for me. [1]

This changes the question.

Could I see Jesus murdering dozens of people to save billions more?

Absolutely not.

After all, Jesus did save every single human being who has ever lived and will ever live on earth. And it only cost him one life: His own.

If I can’t imagine Him doing these horrific things, then as a follower of Jesus this cannot be my path either.

Killing is only the most extreme example. There are other "means" that we more regularly encounter. What about cheating someone out of the things that belong to him or her? What about discarding the truth when it's inconvenient? What about thinking and acting in unloving ways towards the people around us?

If we as Christians are truly trying to live lives pleasing to Jesus, then the ends cannot justify the means—in any circumstance.

I think perhaps the strongest case for this comes from something that Jesus Himself said:

“I am the Way, the truth, and the life.“ (John 14:6)

Jesus is the Way. We are to follow Him to our destination. He is both our means and our end.

In our human endeavours, we have no guarantees of success. The journey is just as important as the destination. In fact, one might argue that achieving our destination isn’t even possible without the journey.

Where in our lives are we taking shortcuts in order to achieve some sort of desirable end?

There is always another way. We just need to exert the effort to find it. When I talk about “exerting the effort” I’m not saying that finding the way requires us to be intelligent or even creative. It requires us to humble ourselves and exert effort in the most meaningful sphere possible. Prayer. Submitting ourselves to God and allowing Him to show us the Way. And then being courageous enough to obey. Finding the Way requires only the spiritual ears to hear, and a heart focussed on obedience. It requires no special maturity, equipment, or mental facility. Often a child can teach an adult how to do this better. But it does require an all-consuming love for God, and a willingness to subsume our desires to His.

Where do we need to repent of our self-sufficiency, and discard any means that are not honouring to Jesus?

Where do we need to allow God to control what we say and do, how we think, how we react, how we plan?

The difference between means-justify-the-ends living and following the Way is really the difference between living life in the flesh and living by the Spirit. Living life in the flesh means that everything depends on me. I am responsible for all strategy, decision-making, and ultimately for effecting all change.

Contrast with this with living by the Spirit, which means that nothing depends on me. God is responsible for all strategy and decision making, and I am only responsible for asking Him what He wants me to do next. I don’t need to know about the big picture. My only responsibility is to obey right now. God is responsible for all outcomes, and they are all worked in to His perfect plan.

When we think everything is up to us, we are much more likely to engage in horrific behaviours. But when we leave the outcomes at Jesus’ feet, we experience more joy, less stress; more intimacy with our Heavenly Father, less futility; more peace, and less failure. This is mainly because we have tuned our spirits to hear our Father’s song as He sings for joy over us. [2] Failure that our eyes may see is no longer failure at all, but just a temporary moment when we can’t see all that’s going on behind the scenes. We are assured of victory. That is in no doubt, and because of that, we can trust in the Way that God is leading us.

So why would we ever give up this blissful existence for the sake of a means-justify-the-ends approach? I can to think of two reasons:

  1. Our addiction to control, or
  2. Impatience with the time God takes to fulfill His plans.

Both of these come down to the prideful thought that we can do things better than God. And both of these demand our immediate repentance.


[1] See Galatians 2:20.
[2] Zephaniah 3:17.

(Picture Source)