Sunday, December 26, 2010

And Justice for All

I think I came out of the womb concerned about justice. When I was a little kid, my mom had me pegged as a mercy-giver. I would get so upset when a friend, or especially a sibling, was mistreated that I would cry. By the time I was a teenager, my 'mercy' had an edge to it, and my mom changed her assessment of my gifting to "weeping prophet." But as I analyze the focus behind my tears, which sometimes still come, I have to say they are more tears of anger than compassion.

Perhaps that is the difference between someone bent towards mercy versus someone bent towards justice. Both can be present at the same tragic episode and both shed tears over it. But our motivation is fundamentally different. While the one concerned with mercy weeps over the trauma to the victim, the one concerned with justice weeps over the audacity of the perpetrator. One feels compassion; the other feels anger. One is offering band-aids and kleenex; the other is organizing the man-hunt.

Mercy is a wonderful thing. Our God is a merciful God, and His mercies are new every morning. But mercy is predicated on justice. For if there were no justice, there would be no need for mercy. And our God is a just God, too, whose justice is foundational to the universe.

We can count on God to punish every sin. We can count on God to demand right behavior of all of His creatures. We can count on God to hate bribes and favoritism and nepotism. God's justice is consistent and in force over every square inch of His creation.

But the social justice crowd gets this concept called justice precisely wrong. As much as they decry favoritism, they play favorites with the "poor" or the "oppressed", even when the poor and oppressed commit crimes--as if being poor or oppressed is an excuse. Kevin DeYoung explains the view of the social justice movement in Why We're Not Emergent:
"When we need a good reading out of the text" (the 1,189 chapters of the Bible), "we should do so with a prejudice of love, reading with the poor, weak, and marginalized in mind."
But DeYoung goes on to explain the problem with prejudice:
"This sounds nice, but is it really workable as an interpretive key? Rollins ' " (an emergent) "hermeneutical grid is a moving target. For instance, do we read the text with the poor in rural Alabama in mind or the poor in Sudan, the weak in power or the weak in moral resolve, the marginalized in Rollins' Ireland or marginalized fundamentalists in a secular university?"
For if God was a capricious God, a prejudiced God requiring payment from some but overlooking payment from others, He would be a tyrant. God's sovereignty means He can be just. God's goodness means He will be just.

He will be just to all. That's the bad news.
But fear not, my mercy-giving friends. He will be merciful to some. And that's much better news.

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