Thursday, December 30, 2010

Justice, Mercy, and the Lockerbie Bomber

I hate bullies.

No, let me rephrase that. I hate, loathe, despise, and abominate bullies (to borrow a line from Meet Me in St. Louis). I was watching A Christmas Story the other night, and I tuned in for the part where Ralphie decks the neighborhood bully. It's a glorious scene of the triumph of right over might. As I sat there and cheered on Ralphie, my husband looked at me and rolled his eyes. "That's the spirit, dear. That's the love of Jesus." Last night, my girls were watching Anne of Green Gables, the sequel. When the terrorized, little student finally has enough of the spoiled, rich kid, she both shoves her face in the mud and shoves mud in her face. Another glorious scene. Another cheer from me. Another concerned look from my gentle husband.

We serve a God who is both just (to all) and merciful (to some). The amazing thing is that He also delegates the responsibility of performing justice and mercy to us here in His creation. Justice falls to the jurisdiction of the government; mercy is falls to the Church's jurisdiction. The corollary to that, of course, is that justice does not fall to the Church, and mercy does not fall to the government. (I have previously discussed the problems of mixed-up jurisdictions here.) So, when governments refuse to carry out justice, the people are left with no recourse. And a people with no recourse are a hopeless people.

On December 21, 1988, Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270people, including 11 on the ground. Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, now dubbed the Lockerbie Bomber, was tried and found guilty of complicity in this act of terrorism. Fast forward to August, 2009. Al-Megrahi, it was revealed, was dying in prison of cancer. And here's the absolutely unbelievable part: the British government released this murderer to Libya on "compassionate grounds."


So what if he's dying of cancer? A just government wouldn't have given him the opportunity to get cancer; it would have given him the chair. So what if he's in discomfort? I imagine 259 people having their bodies obliterated into a million tiny bits and scattered across air and sky was a bit uncomfortable, as well. So what if he would die in prison without his loved ones to gather around him? I'm sure the British government could have arranged for his loved ones to be at his execution.

All told, then, in the end, this mass murderer served 11 days for every life he took. ELEVEN DAYS!!! That, my friends, is a travesty of justice. The British government has failed the people of the world by failing to carry out the justice under its jurisdiction. And there is not one blessed thing we can do about it.

What about mercy? As a member of the Church, that falls to me. I must admit, and my family and friends will heartily concur, I am mercy-challenged. When I heard on Dec. 9, 2010, that the Lockerbie Bomber was in a coma, my first reaction was, "Good riddance." But the Holy Spirit has a way of pricking my conscience. His nudge reminds me that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Neither, then, must I. So this girl, who relishes the part of the story where the bully bites it, started to pray for the Lockerbie Bomber. For his soul. For his eternity. I confess that my first attempt was through clenched teeth. ""

This has been a stretching, sanctifying experience for me. Yet again, God has dragged me to the Cross and shown me myself. Once again, what I see is not pretty. But when I think of Mr. al-Megrahi standing before the Judge and giving an account, it sobers me into a position of mercy. For just because a government has failed over its jurisdiction does not give me an excuse to fail over mine.

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