The Mingling of Justice and Grief
As I sat with a friend, following Monday afternoon's court proceedings, we both explained mixed feelings in regard to the outcome of a case involving our friend and former church secretary. Amidst the sounds of basketball commotion and fan chatter, our conversation volleyed back and forth in sync with the ball on the court. We remained unable to tuck away the rough edges in our minds or wash our hands clean of it two years later. Even though, as citizens, we lend support to a code of order, there is still the dilemma of what to do with the heart in the aftermath. What about the thing that beats in our chests, that makes us human? How does resolution come to rest there in that sacred space after consequences satisfy the law?
If our hearts beat in time with our maker's, we feel the pain when someone we know is taken away in handcuffs. Whether the ending is right or the resolution is just, it doesn't necessarily offer consolation or peace. Sin causes loss..loss causes us to feel grief. It's a flow that has become a familiar theme these last years as well as my very own patient teacher.
Perhaps without seeing a woman's brokenness firsthand, you are still alerted to the feeling of empathy inside of you. It is a mystery how in our prayer closets we plead for mercy and Christ's reply is simply: Be merciful. Really, God? That's the answer? And yet, this is how hope slides into our darkness under the crack of the door. In the scheme of the universe, there is justice, but there is also a need for mercy. When a brother or sister walks in error and suffers consequences, the world tells us they deserve it. And yet, can we not say: But for the grace of God, go I? In Matthew 5, Jesus gives us the beatitudes that say just this: Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. How am I to expect mercy in a time of need, if I am unwilling to extend mercy myself?
As we pray the Lord's prayer, we say these words: "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."
There is a spiritual dimension to every encounter that we have on earth, therefore we have a chance to respond as Christ calls us to. I am so thankful for those that devoted hours upon hours of time to the case and provided detailed documentation, losing countless hours of sleep, perhaps even experiencing stress-induced illness and mental anguish. Yet, still in our hearts, dissonance remains because the ending we are waiting for is the relationship restored through forgiveness.
No matter how far you may feel from this stance, no matter what court you are standing in presently, regardless we are called to be merciful--to be peacemakers and to simply love without condition. I admit that at times this is humanly impossible, but it's Christ who makes it possible. I cannot call myself a Christian unless I strive to be a peacemaker, even releasing someone from the grip of unforgiveness, because my own resentment will fail to establish justice, and only corrode my spirit. In heaven's court, God is the ultimate authority and makes possible our own reconciliation. Therefore, sin is not mine to avenge or seek vindication, but only always I should seek to extend love.
Although the paperwork is filed away and some element of completion has come to this story, there is still our personal responsibility to command our hearts to follow in the discipline of Christ. A fellow writer, Lori Hetton, penned these words:
"You keep pairing me with 'quiet', peace said, but my true companion is the mighty clamor of chains being ripped straight from the wall."
Only true justice will happen when two parties forgive each other when there is reconciliation on a deeper level--a level of cease-fire where the world rarely goes, yet the church is commanded to go. This is the only way to bring peace into the mingling of justice and grief.
Pray along with me that God will have his way in us and that we will collectively be able to offer our grief on the altar in return for amendment and healing that only God can provide. This is the only response that will serve us well and light the way forward. In a world that often misrepresents the defining attributes of love, may we as the church rise above the status quo to a higher standard of peace and justice that is laced with humility and forgiveness.