Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Damage Done

Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land the LORD your God is giving you -- Deuteronomy 16:20

As we learn from Jesus, justice can be tempered with mercy, but you can't get to mercy without going through justice.  Injustice may not be merciful at all.

Consider the situation where a poor man steals food to feed his family.  Most of us would be more likely to be understanding and willing to excuse that -- especially if he stole from someone who could "afford" to lose the food.

We might, conversely, be more likely to condemn a rich man and judge him more harshly for robbing or cheating a poor person.  It's the season for It's A Wonderful Life, and Old Man Potter comes easily to mind.

From a social or financial point of view, our lack of mercy for the rich man compared to our willingness to overlook the infraction of the poor makes sense.  God, though, isn't talking in terms of dollars and cents but of soul and spirit.

Stealing, extortion, embezzlement, or any other crime, whatever the excuses made for the perpetrator, even if it does little harm to the victim, there is a victim, and there is harm to the one who commits the crime as well.

Sadly, there is very little justice in our American legal system.  It would be good if we could return to a more biblical view of human nature.  I am not an expert in this area.  All I know is there is not much in the way of restitution, rehabilition, or restoration.

From the Christian point of view, with regard to sin, the primary aggrieved party is not the State or even, necessarily, the victim, but God.  David committed adultery and murder, yet in Psalm 51, he cried out, "Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight ..." (verse 4).

I remember reading that and thinking, Yeah, well, old Uriah got the short end of the stick, too.  What about him?  The answer is that Uriah suffered and was treated unjustly and unfairly, but the sin was against God Himself.  David wasn't forgetting what a lousy thing he had done to his loyal and valiant soldier, but there was nothing he could do to restore Uriah to life and give him back his wife's fidelity.  But because God lives, David could get right with Him.  God could then make it up to Uriah -- somehow.

When we fail to render justice for a person's actions, we fail to encourage that person to make it right with God.  We allow a wounded, damaged soul to go unhealed.  It doesn't take much imagination to see how that impacts public figures, politicians and celebrities.  In fact, it almost seems as if they feel compelled to commit ever greater transgressions, as if the soul craves justice and want to be called to account that it might be, once again, be made whole.

But it's not just the rich and famous who "get away with murder" and let the corruption eat away at their hearts and minds; it happens to the poor and the disadvantaged as well.  Our unjust mercy has created an underclass of people who think they are justified in degrading and corrupting themselves because poverty and lack of opportunities are acceptable excuses.

Justice is good for everyone.  Without it, society becomes a well-paved road to hell.


julie said...

Justice is good for everyone. Without it, society becomes a well-paved road to hell.

This morning, my boy noticed the signs posted in our neighborhood that said "no stopping" within a certain area near the crosswalk that leads to his school. And of course, as they do every day, the multitude of parents in their cars, blatantly ignoring all the posted signs in order to drop off their own precious snowflakes with no care for the problems they create for everyone else trying to get through or do the same. Passing a car, he started to shout "Hey, you can't park your car there!"

Not worth the battle; I told him that he was right, but he had no authority to shout at adults. Anyway, down here it's an exercise in futility; simply another sign that much of the population of South Florida behaves as though they are still in South America (or wherever) instead.

When hardly anyone recognizes legitimate authority and the rule of law, justice, like everything else, becomes a matter of what one can grab before anyone else takes it. And indeed, it is a fast road to hell.

Anonymous said...

The first mention of favoritism in law is against showing favoritism to the poor.

Exodus 23:3 Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)

3 nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his suit.