justice…administration of the law
On a recent trip to Evansville, to watch two of my four favorite grandsons, a man passed me on a double yellow, going so fast that he looked like a blur. How do I know, then, that it was a man?
At the bottom of the hill, where he couldn’t see, sat one of Indiana’s finest. As I passed them both a few minutes later, sitting on the shoulder of the road, I could clearly see the driver and couldn’t help feeling a bit satisfied. Okay, so it was more than a bit. I was cheering!
But life doesn’t always happen that way, does it? In fact, how many times has something happened and you pause for a minute, waiting for the hand of justice to swoop down and extract punishment?
No, thanks to our ancestors, Adam and Eve, we do not live in a just world. They made a choice…we make a choice…and the result is a world where, it seems, that the unjust rule the day.
My husband and his siblings like to tell a story on their eldest brother, Phil. When they were younger, sitting at the table, Phil would kick them. Not just kick them, but never change the expression on his face, so that it appeared that he was doing nothing at all. They would jump or yell in pain and get fussed by their parents. Meanwhile, Phil sat eating his meal as if nothing were happening.
I remember a girl I went to school with that was a straight A student. Our names were close in the alphabet, so we sat beside each other for most of our grade school classes. One day, I saw her pull up her sleeve during a spelling test. Lo and behold, she had the words written on her arm. I sat stunned…I’m sure I was young enough that it was the first time I saw someone cheating at school. I was so stunned in fact, staring at her, that the teacher called out, “Miss True! Eyes on your own paper!” For the rest of our grade school days and some of our high school classes, I would watch as she cheated her way to top marks. As far as I know, she was never caught.
Everyone has stories like these…and much worse. The person at work that is lazy and takes credit for work he/she didn’t do. The spouse that cheats and yet looks to the world like a model husband/wife. The government that puts its greed above the good of the people. The list could go on and on.
So, what are we to do? How do we handle the injustices of the world? The answer lies in one man’s life…Jesus Christ.
In Christ, we find the answer to how we are to conduct ourselves in a world fraught with injustice. Because Jesus knew all about injustice. Shortly after his birth, Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus had to flee from Bethlehem to Egypt, to escape the slaughter ordered by King Herod. As he began his ministry, Jesus was mocked and jeered at being “just the carpenter’s son.” At every turn, he met with injustice and resentment from the priests of the day. He was betrayed and brought before Pilate, where he was beaten and scourged, stripped, and humiliated. He was nailed to a cross and hung between two thieves until he died, all the while being mocked as “the King of the Jews.”
And yet…He prayed for those who mocked him. He prayed for those who betrayed him. He prayed for those who beat him and nailed him to the cross. Why? Because he trusted God.
Often when we pray, we expect things to change. But we must remember, that when we pray to God, he has a different vantage point than we do. God can see all things: past, present and future. Because of our limited view, when things get anxious or tense, we pray for immediate change in the situation or the person in conflict.
But…do we trust God? Do we give him “carte blanche” or free reign to act as he wills? Or do we hold back. “If you answer my prayer the way I want, then I will trust you.” That’s not faith…that’s turning God into a wishing well.
In order to trust God, we have to establish a relationship with him, just as we do with family and friends. We must spend time in prayer and contemplation of sacred scripture. We must listen. Many times, the justice we seek does not come in the form we would want or even expect. In Matthew 18, Jesus was asked about forgiveness.
And from Matthew 5, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?
If you notice, Jesus gives two instructions: Pray for our enemies and forgive. Did you notice who these things were directed at? Us!
Jesus is not just saying words. He gave us an example to follow. An example that he lived every day. Why pray? To pull us closer to God. To strengthen us and keep us from sinning by becoming bitter or resentful or by retaliating against those who have wronged us.
The actions Jesus mentioned are directed at us. Why? Because prayer does something much greater that changing our circumstances…it changes us. It may not come after one prayer…it may not come after many prayers. But when we truly open our hearts and pray in earnest for those who wrong us, we can begin to see them as God does. And that will change everything.
You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you:
only to do justice and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. -Micah 6:8