Last week I noticed some friends debating on social media the 21-year-long prison sentence received by Anders Behring Breivik for killing 77 people in Norway. Most commenters expressed frustration at the seemingly light sentence and many wished that Breivik had received the death penalty, even though Norway doesn’t do that kind of thing anymore. At one point, one commenter replied to another, “I’m glad you agree the guy deserves to die.” This sentence immediately brought Clint Eastwood’s The Unforgiven to mind.
In the movie (see the clip here) Will Munny, played by Clint Eastwood, and the Kid, played by Jaimz Woolvett, exact some vigilante-style justice by hunting down and killing a bad man. The Kid does the actual gun work when they finally find their man. But as it turns out, the bad man was the first person the Kid had ever shot. He’d been looking forward to killing the man, but now that the deed was done, the Kid is confused and sick. In an attempt to make himself feel better, he tells Munny, “Well, I guess he had it coming.” Eastwood’s Munny replies, “We all have it coming, kid.” This phrase is one of the more theologically loaded lines penned by Hollywood. The Unforgiven portrays a world without redemption. No grace, just harsh justice dispensed by fallen men.
Fortunately, God offers hope for forgiveness in this world, but in the end death still comes for everyone. We think of physical death as a natural part of life, but according to the Bible, it’s actually God’s judgment on sinners. Sometimes justice isn’t swift, but Breivik has already been given the divine death sentence. Even so, I really don’t think that most people will be consoled by this idea since we all stand under the same penalty. We tell ourselves and each other that we just want justice in the case of Breivik, but in our darkest hearts most of us know that what we really want is for him to remain unforgiven. “We all have it coming, kid.”