Is Murder Always Murder?

Warning: This review of Poirot: Murder on the Orient Express is wall-to-wall spoilers. It can’t be helped.

Hercule Poirot is a solid Catholic devoted to the rule of law, the sovereignty of God, and the sacredness of God’s commandments. Here he confronts twelve decent, moral individuals who have been denied justice and have committed a terrible crime for what they deemed an overwhelmingly compelling reason. The man they murdered was a human monster who had successfully corrupted the justice system, and eluded punishment. The persons who killed him had suffered grievously at his hands.

Poirot has solved the crime. He knows what they did. What should he do? Turn them in as murderers, or let them get away with it?

Yes, it’s another one of those David Suchet masterpieces, and you can watch it on youtube whenever you like. Artistically, it’s a triumph. But more than that, it asks challenging questions. It forces you to consider deeply how a Christian is to live in a fallen world.

God demands that a murderer should be put to death–but not without the testimony of at least two witnesses. He ordains the civil magistrate to punish evildoers. He forbids us to take personal vengeance. He assures us that in the end, no one shall escape His judgment.

Poirot believes these teachings, passionately. But the situation that arises on the Orient Express forces him to re-examine his beliefs. Not give them up, or change them–never. But rather to see if there is more to them than he thought.

What shall we do when a murderer succeeds in perverting the course of justice–when he escapes scot-free, leaving a trail of innocent victims in his wake? Not that any of us is likely to encounter this in person: but surely it’s profitable for us to meditate on God’s word. Does it truly cover every case? Is it truly sufficient to guide us through a complicated world?

The answer Poirot receives, in the end, is “yes.” God’s counsel will not fail us–provided we submit to it with our hearts open to the Holy Spirit.



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