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Monday, September 04, 2006

The hypocrisy of justice

Some of you may remember the story of Martin and Gracia Burnham, the two missionaries from the Phillipines who were kidnapped by the Abu Sayaff and held hostage for a year. During the rescue attempt, Martin was killed but Gracia made it out alive and went on to write a book describing her year of hell called In the Presence of My Enemies. In the book she describes a conversation with one of her captors who was boasting about how Islam was a stronger religion than Christianity because it enforced greater punishment on evil doers. Martin and Gracia explained to the man how Christianity emphasized the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God based on the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. The captor then snarled as he said, "Where is the justice in that? People should pay for their sins." When Martin and Gracia asked if he thought the way they had been treated was wrong he looked at them like they just landed on earth from another planet (my words, not the author's).

That is the problem with justice. We humans are all too eager to condemn others while being blind to our own faults. Of course, living in a sin-cursed earth we need a system of law and justice to curb evil and protect society, but does that mean that God governs his moral universe on the basis of law and retribution? I think not. When Jesus was on the cross, He said "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." Where is the justice in that? Those people murdered the Son of God! And here Jesus is asking the Heavenly Father to forgive them? Jesus also said to "love your enemies." Why would God tell us to do that if He doesn't follow His own advice? The Bible says, "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses against them."

Everyone,no matter how good or bad they are, is reconciled to God as far as He is concerned. The problem is that not everyone wants to be reconciled to God. Some would prefer hell with themselves over heaven with God. God is gracious enough to give people what they want. Why would anyone want to remain an enemy of God when they can be His friend? I don't know. But I do know that since "God is love" and God is everywhere, even those in hell are loved by God. Unconditional love may not make sense to us, but it is a far better moral principle to govern the universe than simple tit for tat retribution.

2 comments:

toby said...

have you ever read the book "what's so amazing about grace?"? this book refers to the idea you present as the "scandal" of grace, how grace can sometimes fly in the face of all we think is just and fair and right. i highly recommend the book if you haven't read it.

Aaron D. Taylor said...

I haven't read the book, but thank you for the suggestion. It sounds like a winner.