“If only I could have justice!” People have cried out for justice down through the ages, and how many of them have received it? If you’re wronged in some way, what do you want? What would make it right?
My husband and I had this conversation several weeks ago. I gave him a hypothetical situation:
Let’s pretend you have a brother
I always wanted a brother. We could have had a blast . . .
C’mon — just work with me here. Let’s pretend you do have a brother, and you’re close. You’re tight. And one day you get a phone call and you learn that your brother is dead. Some creep killed him because he couldn’t get his wallet out fast enough. What do you want?
I want that @#&% to fry!!!
Okay, I understand that. But will that make you happy? Will it make it right?
No, but at least I want justice for my brother.
But what is justice? Isn’t it making things right? Restoring what was taken?
Well yeah, yeah — that’s right. But I still want him to fry.
And is frying this creep going to give you what you want?
But what do you really want most?
I want him to fry!
At this point I feel a little coaching may be necessary . . . I ask him, “Don’t you want your brother back?” He allows that this is true, but if his brother is dead, how could that happen?
And this is the limitation of our “justice” system.
Justice IS making things right. The best we can do is to even out the playing field a little bit. The mugger took a life? He must not be allowed to have an unfair advantage because of his crime. One way to prevent this unfair advantage is to execute him. He will not enjoy life, even life in prison, while an innocent man, whom he murdered, lies in his grave, and his relatives and friends grieve.
But if you execute the criminal, his relatives also grieve, and what have they done? They will grieve anyway, if they’re decent people, that their kinsman has done such a shameful deed and caused such pain to his own family and to the family of the dead man. That’s not just either. They only suffer because of their decency. If they were uncaring louts, they wouldn’t suffer.
So far we’ve made a hash of this justice thing. We can’t fix a crime like this. But God, who raises the dead, and to whom all live, He can make it right. He can restore the dead brother and he can dry all the tears of the innocent.
And He can fry the murderer, too. And perhaps He’ll do that. But let’s say that the murderer’s mother is a sweet old saint. She grieves the evil deed of her son. This woman is not at fault. She did the best she knew how to do in raising her son and now he’s murdered a man and not repented and he’s burning in hell. And heaven for her is not heaven and she wishes she could be in hell too, if this is how it’s going to be.
“God will take away her love for her son,” you say? Really? Do you mean the God who told us to love even our enemies? Now He’s taking away her love for her son? Against her will? Does that sound like something He would do?
“Well then, He’ll make her forget her son. Or He’ll cause it to be that her son never even existed. Then she’ll have peace.” Really again? Will He ask her permission first? And even if she agrees, will God also forget? We are to love our enemies so that we will be like our Father in heaven. So we know that He loves this wretched man whom He created, who has rebelled against all that is decent and good, and who has now come to this pass — he is burning and always will be. What of God? Must He forever mourn the loss and the continuing agony of this loved one?
Let’s not even discuss the tangled mess it would make of our minds for God to cause all of us to forget all of those who didn’t make it, and were either annihilated or condemned to never ending torment. I suspect that was what prompted the Roman Catholic Church to teach that there would be no remembrance in heaven.
No, that doesn’t work. For true justice to be done to everyone, all people must be restored — even the vilest. What won’t wash off will burn out, and the seed that remains; the good that God put in at the first; must be coaxed back into life.
Is this true? Well, we have all of Romans ahead, and while I’ve explored (at this point) up to chapter nine, I still don’t know how it’s going to end. Maybe the great apostle Paul will correct my thinking (and if he does, I will be corrected). If he persuades otherwise, though, maybe it would be well to listen to that also. After all, it’s the truth we seek — not the vindication of a lie we’ve grown accustomed to.
Next time: Grace, and then on to the rest of Romans chapter one.