by Dr. Mark Brewer :: It has been said that most managers turn a mere problem into a crises by “over” or “under” reacting. Once Calvin and the “band of theological brothers” successfully convinced the city leaders to embrace their understanding of what a “Godly city” would look like, they had to deal with the issue of enforcement. How do you change the hearts and minds of a group of citizens? How do you get people to behave? Calvin embraced the primary role of education. He believed in the call of teaching both boys and girls (something revolutionary at the time) in public schools with Christian values. He also called for the funding of the arts and the beautification of the city for the “blessing of the people.” He was zealous in preaching the right of the people to choose for themselves their own leadership. (Again, a very radical thing in the 16th century.) Thrift, hard work, and a concern for the poor were as much a part of Geneva’s politicians as its citizens.
But I think he certainly over reacted when he had a traveling “heretic from Spain” executed for teaching against the established order and stirring up the people. Though he and the city council were trying to “protect” the peace, and Calvin thought he was being “grace filled” when he had Severetus beheaded rather than the customary “burning at the stake” it hardly modeled theological tolerance. We must always strive for the truth and justice. But we must also want the person caught in darkness to find the light much more than wanting their demise. It certainly is true with our own personal opponents as well a society’s. How often I want my “pain causing people” to pay more than changing. I still have far to go in this journey of spiritual growth.