Posts Tagged ‘Justice’

DroneFriday night I watched the evening news broadcast from ABC. One of the stories was of the U. S. drone strike in Pakistan that killed a terrorist leader. In reporting the story, ABC’s Brian Ross quoted an unnamed government official as saying “Life is good” in response to the news that the terrorist was killed.

I despise what terrorists do. I despise the evil that justifies in their own minds their senseless killing of innocent lives. I wish there were no terrorists in our world. Yet, I winced a little at the reaction “Life is good” in response to the killing.

Here’s why…

As a Christian, I take seriously the final words of Jesus commanding his followers to go into all the world and make disciples of all the nations. Evil has existed since man first rebelled against God. The first-choice solution for changing this unfortunate reality has never been to knock off all those who would do us harm or carry out evil, but to make every effort to change the hearts of the lost. For those of us who believe in eternal life in heaven with Christ and in hell without him, we should take no pleasure in the prospect of any soul dying without knowing Him. Nothing is more tragic.

Don’t think for a minute that I’m some softy when it comes to justice. Physical death is a just punishment for heinous crimes – including terrorism – and in no way contradicts the biblical commandment “You shall not murder.” Premeditated murder of an innocent victim is not the same as a civil government’s right and responsibility to enforce laws and carry out punishment accordingly, even if that means killing the perpetrator. We live in a fallen world and one of the unfortunate consequences is that some people do horrendous things that require punishment in order for justice to be served and to ensure that societies have some semblance of order.

There is a difference, though, in being gleeful about executing such justice and mourning the fact that it is necessary. Any parent who has ever thought or said before punishing a child “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you” has experienced the angst that sets in when punishment may be necessary but still a cause for sadness in the one executing it.

And that is my simple point in this post: We can and should execute justice and punish when appropriate, but let’s not do it with a smile and a flippant “Life is good” attitude because we enjoy it. Instead, mourn that the hearts of so many are wicked enough to cause the situation. Work and pray and do everything imaginable to change those hearts so that such last-resort punishment is no longer necessary.

I’m under no illusion that this is a problem that humankind has the ability to solve. I only know of One who has the real power to change a person from the inside out. He’s been doing it since He created humankind and He is still in the heart-changing business today for all who turn to Him in repentance and faith.

Is life good? Yes! But not because we got one of the bad guys. Life is good when we know the Author of life, are assured of our place in eternity with Him, and are being faithful servants doing what He has called us to do for all of our days this side of heaven.

JusticeI wish I could recall who I first heard the following definitions from years ago, but I can’t.  Nevertheless, the following definitions of justice, mercy and grace have stuck with me for a long while.  Here they are:

  • Justice is getting what you deserve.
  • Mercy is not getting what you deserve.
  • Grace is getting more than you deserve.

I think I’m correct in stating that as a rule the following is true:

  • We are eager to see other people come to justice for the wrongs they commit.
  • We at least want mercy for ourselves when we do wrong.
  • What we really want for ourselves is grace.

We have that backwards.  Oh, that the following was more common:

  • That we would be willing to accept justice for what we do;
  • That we would be willing to extend mercy even if it isn’t deserved;
  • That we would rejoice with others when they are the recipients of grace.

ZimmermanTrialThere has been no shortage of opinions offered around the U.S. and beyond following the “not guilty” verdict of George Zimmerman in the murder of Trayvon Martin.  I don’t think the world needs any more opinions on the matter of his guilt or innocence, including my own.  The only truly educated opinions that matter come from those who were present in that courtroom and who have all of the information that is available, even if it is incomplete information.  Cries of guilt or innocence from others are based on incomplete information and factors such as emotions, histories and biases that presuppose much but prove nothing.

Having had some time to ponder the verdict, to watch reactions, and to read at least a few thoughtful, meaningful responses, I offer my response here:

So what are you going to do about it?  

I don’t mean that flippantly because this is nothing to take lightly.  I literally mean what actions are you going to take in response to what just unfolded before the nation and the world in this trial?  What are you going to do different this week than you might have done if the verdict had gone another way?  Are you going to be different on the inside because of this and, if so, what will that look like on the outside to others?

As I think about responses to the verdict from those in different roles and from different perspectives, I wonder about the following:

As a parent and grandparent, what will I teach my children and grandchildren about justice, about prejudice, about self-defense, and about how to answer the question “Who is my neighbor?”  Will my heart ache when I imagine the pain of parents who lost a child so senselessly and needlessly, and will I work to help prevent others from experiencing that same fate?

As a white man, will I try to understand the reaction of minorities who see all too many verdicts go against them (although in this case both parties involved were minorities)?

As a citizen, will I take action to improve laws that I believe to be inadequate?  Will I do my part to place in office those who can help make positive change?  Will I give of my time, energy and resources to change a justice system that too often allows injustice?  Will I get involved in my neighborhood watch program and work to make it function legally and reasonably?

As a Christian, will I mourn with those who mourn?  Will I pray not just for those who like me and are like me, but for those with whom I share little in common – even my enemies?  Will I represent Christ well in my compassion for all involved and in my desire for reconciliation between individuals, between races, and between people and God?  Will I step up my efforts at what I believe in my heart this world needs more than anything else, as the following tweet from Ed Stetzer, President of Lifeway Research reminded me Sunday morning?


What will I do different as a result of this verdict?  What will you do?  If all we plan is to spout our opinions and yell down those with whom we disagree, then we have missed the critical teachable moment in the midst of a tragedy.  We will miss the great opportunity to at least partly redeem a broken situation.  We will miss the call to mold the future for the better.

I know we all have our opinions of guilt or innocence.  I have mine.  But opinions aren’t what the world needs right now.  We need thoughtful, purposeful, reasoned action that makes a difference for this and future generations.

So What Are You Going to Do About It?


For some additional recommended reading related to the Zimmerman verdict, see:

Blind JusticeVery few days go by without someone complaining to me about something happening in our company’s internal social network.  Usually it’s about a specific discussion that someone takes offense at or because they think a rule or two have been broken that requires my intervention as community manager.  That goes with the territory of managing a community of 23,000 people that posts over 1,000 messages a day.  Given the activity level, the number of complaints is remarkably low.

An interesting phenomenon of late, however, is the complaint that suggests I don’t moderate political discussions fairly – that I allow people on the left (or on the right) to get away with more than the other side.  The funny part of that complaint is that I hear it from both sides.  The fact that both sides complain tells me I’m being as fair as I know how to be.

While there is some subjectivity to moderating online communities, there are also specific rules in place that I have communicated and that I follow.  The clear-cut rules when broken are the easy ones to enforce.  It’s the more subjective guideline such as showing respect to fellow employees that is up to interpretation and more challenging to enforce.  These are also the ones where people are more likely to disagree with my decisions.

I have no fantasy and no goal of trying to please everyone.  My goal is to do what I think is in the best interests of the community and the business.  As was mentioned by my manager earlier today at a team get-together, you have to develop a pretty thick skin as a community manager given all that comes at you.

If you are in a role that occasionally requires you to make a judgment between sides, then you know the situation I’m in.  Heck, even a parent of two kids knows that situation, much less anyone in a work-related role that calls for mediation between two parties.  As challenging as the role may be at times, there is some comfort in leap year lesson #355: You’re likely being fair if both sides accuse you of favoritism.

Justice is a good thing.  Most are pleased when we see justice served, when criminals get the deserved punishment for their lawbreaking.  Granted, if we are the ones breaking the law, we’re more interested in seeing mercy than justice, but that’s another discussion.

A couple of phrases or terms come to mind that we hear from time to time that deal in some way with justice.  One is “what goes around, comes around.”  Then there is the whole idea of “karma” that some religions subscribe to which relates to the subject but is open to various interpretations and is not intended to be a synonym for “justice.”

It’s easier when the subject is lawbreaking to get agreement on what justice demands.  It can get a little tougher in other contexts, though.

Take, for example, the consequences of a way of life that in time takes its toll on the person to the detriment of physical, emotional, financial, mental or spiritual health.  The end result is justice in the sense that it is the logical consequence of a series of choices that turn out a certain way eventually.

Or take the example of a leader who makes consistently bad decisions over a long period of time to the detriment of the organization he is charged with leading.  There may be nothing criminal about the acts, but the negative impact on others and on the organization are just as real and result in serious consequences, eventually necessitating a change in leadership for the survival of the organization.  The change is a just consequence of many prior actions.

Justice can, of course, be more positive as well.  We enjoy seeing good things happen to good people.  When acts of kindness are rewarded, when hard-working people get promoted, when those normally quiet on the sidelines are recognized as key partners in success, positive justice puts a smile on our face.

I am not naive enough to think that justice always happens in this life, but I do believe that there is a God who is the ultimate judge and who is supremely fair in His judgments.  That is why I believe in leap year lesson #297 – Sooner or later, justice happens.