Trayvon Martin, Justice, and the Church

justiceIn my forty years here on earth I feel I have witnessed two major landmark incidents involving racially charged accusations of white against black / Caucasian against African American injustice. In both of these situations, it has become very apparent that more than ever in this country we are fractured along racial lines. Accompanying these tragic incidents were riots and threats of riots, death threats, police negligence, alleged injustice, racial profiling. Both situations have caused societal reckoning and individual soul-searching. So much time has gone by between these two events, we would think that issues of race, social inequalities, and injustice would have long been identified and corrected in our society and culture; especially when it comes to racial divides. These two tragic events are the Rodney King beating (The beating in 1991.The riots after the trial and acquittal of four LAPD officers in 1992), and the Trayvon Martin shooting death (The shooting death took place in 2012 and the murder trial and acquittal of George Zimmerman in 2013). I call them tragic, because human dignity was lost and human life succumbed to the recklessness of sin, death, and Satan. At the end of it all when someone is beaten or dead, a man loses his freedom even though he is free, and everyone hates each other, and revenge is executed - NO one wins.

This blog post is NOT about whether someone is guilty or not guilty (I do have my personal opinions about both incidents). This blog post is about the response of the Church and every Christian regardless of your opinions of whether justice or injustice has occurred.

When tragic events like this take place people almost always we see three things to happen:

Blame: When something tragic happens people want to blame someone or something for the pain and confusion caused. We want to point fingers because we believe that this will alleviate any anger, hurt, or confusion that we might be experiencing. Blame might make things right, but it never brings about the end it only prolongs the issue, circumstances, and feelings.

criminal_justiceJustice: We want things made right don't we and we want people getting what they deserve. It seems to be a human condition. Since we were little and old enough to interact with other people, we have sought justice. Whether it's issue with our bratty siblings, encounters with our classmates on the playground, or coworkers who don't carry their share of the work load; we want "things made right or for them to get what they deserve." The problem with justice is that it can neglect the very things we all seek for ourselves like understanding, mercy, forgiveness, dignity, and love. Justice never makes things completely right; and getting what one deserves almost always is never a good idea for all involved, because it never leads to closure, it only leads to more desire for justice, hate, division, and ultimately revenge.

Revenge: The only thing revenge does is fuel the cycle of anger, hate, division, pain, and confusion.. Revenge never satisfies. Revenge never quenches the desire or need to make things right. Revenge is incapable of making things right; it can only perpetuate the tension of people getting what they deserve - it is cyclical. Revenge ultimately leads to destruction and death.

So what do we do when there are events and circumstances where justice is needed or injustice prevails? As Christians our understanding and response should be one of peace, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, and love. We follow and serve a God and Saviour who both deserved justice and had injustice committed against him. Yet he neither sought justice while he was here on earth, nor did he complain or cry about the injustice committed against him (Isaiah 53:6-8; Luke 14:43-65 & 15:1-37) .

lent-400WHAT DO WE DO... We are called as people of God to not live in anger, instead we are to demonstrate compassion and forgiveness to everyone we encounter (Ephesians 4:1-32). And we need to be aware of our words and actions. We need to live with wisdom and prudence. We are not to react foolishly or contrary to the ways of God, but make the most with our time here on earth. The Apostle Paul said it this way, "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:15-16).

We are to serve as the reconcilers of cross-cultural divides and be advocates of forgiveness and healing for a society that is racially and culturally polarized right now (2 Corinthians 5:14-21 & Philippians 2:1-8). The gospel message is that Jesus through his death on a cross and resurrection, brought peace between God and man. We are also called to live in peace with each other and to demonstrate peace to those who need it (Ephesians 4:3; Romans 12:18; Colossians 3:15; 1 Timothy 2:1-3; Titus 3:1-3; Hebrews 12:14-15; & 1 Peter 3:8-12). Our message is one of peace through Jesus (Acts 10:36). I could go on an on, but I believe you get the point. Followers of Jesus are to be peacemakers.

What God requires of us is to be His people who act justly, love mercy, be humble...

"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

Catch the line about justice. We don't seek justice, we act justly. To seek justice is to make everything right, but to act justly is to respond and interact with others through just motives and actions.

I know it is hard in our humanity to want justice when injustice has occurred. From a Christian perspective and as God's people we must not seek to be judge, jury, and executioner. We can trust that the one who created all things will in the end administer a righteous justice. Jesus will give to each person what they deserve, perfectly and absolutely. (Hebrews 1:1-12; Revelation 19).

I pray that the Church will be the demonstration of love and forgiveness during this time of pain, sorrow, and frustration, disappointment, anger, confusion, and pride. I hope we reveal to people a God who is just, but at the same time is merciful. Through His grace we have all escaped what we all justly deserve and instead have received forgiveness and restoration.

At the end of it all when someone is beaten or dead, a man loses his freedom even though he is free, and everyone hates each other, and revenge is executed - NO one wins.

BUT grace and love triumphs over all.