It’s been a tough couple of weeks for America. We are experiencing internal conflict that is not unlike many times in our past, but there seems to be a new height of urgency in it. Although this nation has experienced its share of divisiveness and we understand that at least some of that is intrinsic to this great experiment, we seem to be moving towards something more violent or explosive.
It’s odd that after the people have elected the first President that is of an ethnic minority, our greatest burden is racism. It’s antithetical to understand recent history in those terms. It’s also obvious that although racism may not be our “greatest” burden, it’s perception, whether actual or not, is a burden.
That perception is where the divide actually lies. Don’t get me wrong, I am not denying that racism exists. Neither am I stating that it exists in such a volume as to be outstanding. I only believe actual racism to be less of a problem than what is perceived, and it is in that perception that the monster we fear awaits. Let me try to quickly describe the problem, as I see it.
The situation: A young black man is shot and killed by a police officer in Middle America. The evidence seems to indicate that the shooting was self-defense and the officer was justified in it. I must consider what I would have done if I were in the police officers shoes at that moment. The communities of black people as well as many others across the nation do not share in the “systems” seeming quick acquittal of the officer. I can also relate to their perception of an almost “police state” mentality of Americas local governments. It is getting out of control. On the other hand, the other half of the general public seems to stand in total support of the officer’s acquittal. One claims that justice has not been served due to a lack of due process. “The system is against us” would be their claim. The other side claims that justice was in fact carried out on the street and the ‘system” merely clarified the justification of the act. The communities of naysayers say that racism is the root cause of all of this and desire justice one way or another. The cheerleaders believe justice has been served and do not want this tragic display of it to impede it’s progress in the future. Who is right?
The desire: As I have thought about this recently, I will admit that I had sided with those who believed that the officer was justified. I would not like to back up on that because of my commitment to ones right to self-defense. The evidence is too overwhelming. On the other hand, it has given me pause to see the divide and the real feelings that exist within both communities of thought. One desires justice and believes it hasn’t been served. That belief is based upon what they see as ongoing racism that has led to a system that exonerates racist behavior. The other believes that there is a huge problem with crime and any time a criminal is eliminated, regardless of race, it’s good. This is based upon the belief that justice is not being served in large portions of America and criminals are getting away with crimes against the general public, in which they are members.
Both communities are victims in their own eyes, and I believe in many cases that belief is authentic. Many black people do feel slighted and they believe racism is really to blame for their situations. Many other people do believe that crime is rampant and they are being victimized by a lack of “caught and punished” criminals. Both of these are perceptions that, although may be founded in some truth, mostly flounder in presuppositions that are inaccurate.
That doesn’t matter though. What matters is that the perception is authentic. Saying that, I believe both perceptions are based on a more intrinsic desire that exists in all people. That desire is for true justice. People of all places, times, and cultures desire some kind of real and complete justice. This justice is very basic but it is very central to humanity. People not only want crime punished but they want wrong righted. We not only desire that a specific crime or wrong be punished, but we desire that all things wrong be made right. We understand that the whole world is plagued with wrong. Babies die, women are raped and abused, minorities are treated unfairly, the elderly are minimized, the sick are marginalized, governments oppress, etc. You get the picture. There is so much wrong with this world, and the people that live in it, that one of our greatest longings is real justice.
One of the most popular shows to begin the modern craze of reality TV, is the show COPS. It has many other spin offs that have similar story lines. People do wrong and they are caught and presumably pay for their offense. This is not new. This story line exists in almost every popular show of any kind and any time. Justice entertains people because the desire for justice is intrinsic to us. Just watch television and see the proof. Justice sells adds and stands out in television programming.
The problem is that this desire is never truly or fully satisfied. No matter how much crime is punished or how much racism is abolished, evil still exists unpunished in some way. Along side of our intrinsic desire that justice prevail is our fundamental knowledge that it will never fully prevail. It is a desire that seems can never be extinguished. It is a hunger that seems to never be satisfied. No matter how much we work for justice, more can be done.
Yet we hope. We hope for a future that will bring justice. We long for something or someone who can administer it fairly and fully. But why? Aren’t we realists? Don’t we understand that that kind of justice will not come to fruition? Shouldn’t we just do our best and be satisfied with our best? We can’t seem to let it go.
I believe that our hope for justice, this intrinsic desire that lay unsatisfied in us, is born from another realization that lay in each of us. I think that humanity only desires a thing if that thing can be realized. CS Lewis said that no desire may exist where satisfaction for it does not. In other words, we desire that there will be true and full satisfaction for our desire of justice because we know it can be satisfied. This essence of true justice and rightness exists, and we long for it or them or it.
People long for racism to cease because they know it could someday. Others desire for crime to be punished because they know it could someday. We long for fairness, rightness, and justice because we know that although those may never be fully realized by our contemporaries, they may be realized some day.
People may not understand this or be able to articulate it, but they know it’s possible. The satisfaction for their desire exists. It exists transcendently because it is given to or placed in all people. This is only possible if a transcendent moral lawgiver, justifier, and judge exists. He does, and we desire his justice. All of us desire its fullness and trueness. This desire grows in us as if it was planted. It’s seed is deep in human conciseness and we are aware of its sprouting limbs reaching into our emotions when brokenness appears.
What has happened in America, this tragic breakdown of the best justice system in human history, is brought to us by the grace of God. I know that sounds crazy, but I believe it to be true. God has placed in each of us a desire for something that each of us knows cannot be fulfilled in or of ourselves. He has made us in a way so that we will need him, this justice giver. He has designed us to long for something that cannot be found in another place but his courts. He has orchestrated his plan using our sinful behavior to place us in unsatisfactory justice, so that we will seek satisfaction in his judgment. He allows injustice to continue so that we will long for something better and more perfect.
That’s where Jesus comes in. He is the true and perfect judge. He is fair and right. He will bring justice in its truest and fullest form. He will right all wrong. Some will be punished and some have been already. He will stand as the judge and his cross stands as satisfactory judgment. All who seek pardon must be expiated and propitiated for while the rest must pay on their own. Some are justified through the payment made through the cross and the rest will be judged apart from it. The King of Heaven will someday impose his perfect justice on the world that has not partook in his perfect payment. Real justice will come. We all know it. We long for it and know that nothing else will satisfy us. Some day, the gavel will fall, all wrong will be made right, and every tear wiped away. Satisfaction will be realized fully.
I do not say that we should abandon our quest for justice here, today. We should not merely wait on true justice. It is our responsibility to do our best to obtain it now. In fact, God has ordained governments to enact it and governments are made of people.
I would like to say that as we sit and ponder what in the world is going on with our best efforts, we should not lose hope. Those who have not believed before should find hope. All of us should realize that real hope does not lie within humanities reach. It is just beyond it, but only for a while. In a world that does seem hopeless at times, this Christmas is a good time to remember that the True and Right Judge has invaded this world. His mission is to glorify himself in the courts of the council of his will, for the preeminence of his Son, in the fullness of time; justifying, judging, and eventually redeeming his creation, making all things new.
No matter which side you fall on with what happened in Ferguson, MO, someday all will be made right and true. If true justice is what you desire, then that can only be found in Christ. Otherwise, the gift on your wish list may never come.