Tragedy, Death, and Confusion
It's safe to say that in the United States, the last few weeks have been characterized by tragedy, death, and confusion. Many in our society have risen up against the perceived injustice of the deaths of two black men at the hands of police officers. This uprising has led to even more violence at demonstrations that are calling for justice. Additionally, others have taken it upon themselves to seek a type of vigilante justice and have murdered innocent police officers. The loss of life has been tragic, and as people who love life in all its forms, we grieve with those who have lost loved ones as a result of these events.
To make matters worse, these events have been drenched in confusion. Our age has become one of instant access, in which news and stories are broken immediately, sometimes even as they are taking place, and therefore our ability to comment on the news has likewise become instantaneous. When that which appears to us as injustice occurs, either in our lives or in our society, it is common for us to want to address it immediately and harshly. This has led to many people making quick judgments based on little evidence, which starts rumors and incites anger, which in my mind has only compounded the problems that we are facing and has made the issues even harder to wade through, and the resulting questions even more difficult to answer. As people who love the truth, Christians should seek out the facts of all situations before making determinative judgments in the public square.
At this time, there is very little we can know about these situations, and how and why they occurred. Investigations will be undertaken and more facts will come to light which will help authorities to know the truth and take appropriate action based on that knowledge. In the mean time, we are a society who is left in the lurch - we want answers and action, and we want it now. But answers have not been forthcoming - at least not yet - and in the meantime our God-given desire for justice is tingling within us, demanding that the scales be balanced in one way or another. But even in times of tragedy and death in which confusion reigns, Christians have a solid foundation upon which they can place their trust: the all-knowing, all-seeing God of perfect righteousness and justice.
Trusting in the Just Judge
While our knowledge of these events is limited to cell phone videos, eyewitness testimony, social media reactions, and other types of evidence, God's knowledge is not limited. He does not need to conduct an investigation to find the facts. He sees all and knows all (Psalm 33.13-15, Hebrews 4.13). He is aware when an injustice has been committed (Psalm 31.7-8). Additionally, God loves justice and righteousness and will always see it fulfilled (Genesis 18.25, Psalm 33.4-5). We don't ever have to worry that someone who has committed an injustice will get away with it. There are no mistrials or hung juries in God's courtroom. In the cosmic balance of eternity, God will always see that justice is carried out, and that all people will receive the due reward for their deeds (Psalm 28.4). Even those criminals who never face human justice will one day stand before the just judge of all the universe and hear their sentence. God will always do what is right. Always.
There are two ways in which God will deal with evil and achieve justice. The first way is through eternal punishment in hell. Because God is good, he must punish evil. All those who have transgressed his law will be found guilty and their deserved punishment will be hell for all eternity. But this is not God's preference. God would prefer to deal with sin through his own sacrifice of his Son on the cross (2 Peter 3.9). Through Christ, those who are trusting in him can have their sin-debt taken care of. The punishment that Jesus endured was on behalf of those who are trusting in him. So God's own sense of justice is satisfied through the punishment that Christ endured on behalf of those who believe (Romans 3.26). Because he is just, God will have justice - either on the cross or in hell.
Responding to confusion with truth
These truths should help us answer some of the questions that have arisen over the past few weeks in our nation, such as:
Were the officers in the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile racially motivated to kill? I don't know, but God does. I don't have all the facts, and I can't see their hearts. But God does have all the facts, and he can see their hearts (1 Samuel 16.7). I can and should trust that he has full knowledge of the situation and will act accordingly.
How should we seek justice? Pursue the truth. As I stated earlier, when a perceived injustice occurs, our natural inclination is to respond swiftly and harshly because we have a God-given desire for justice in our lives. Unfortunately, the advent of social media in our day and age has made it very easy for us to rush to judgment without pursuing all of the facts (truth) about a perceived injustice, and it is very easy for us to come to judgments that are in error, and may even incite anger or violence toward others. Because God loves the truth, Christians are to love the truth as well. In fact, there is no justice without truth. Therefore, we should always be seeking the truth as much as possible in situations such as these. To take a determinative stance on any perceived injustice without full knowledge of the issue would be exceedingly unwise, at best (Proverbs 18.2). Our goal should be to have the understanding that God has in order to make a definitive judgment.
What should we do if an injustice has occurred? First, we should allow the process of justice that God has put in place in our country to take its course (Romans 13.4). If, for whatever reason, our justice system fails, Christians should never seek to act as a judge and enact some sort of vigilante justice. To do so demonstrates a lapse of faith in God's judgment (Romans 12.19). We must rest confidently in the truth that God will see the scales balanced, even if we never see justice done in this life (2 Corinthians 5.10, Romans 2.6).
How now shall we live?
Through the Bible we can see that God loves life, truth, and justice. As his people it is incumbent upon us to mirror God's own love for and pursuit of these things.
We must pursue life. God is a God who loves life, and his people subsequently love life in all its forms. Therefore, we are grieved when any life is lost for any reason, and specifically, we mourn with those who mourn over the loss of their friends and loved ones. May God give us tender hearts that will grieve over the loss of those who bear his image and fight for its protection.
We must pursue justice. God delights in fairness and equity in any and all scenarios and circumstances. Consequently, he shares this characteristic with his creation, and human beings likewise have an inherent desire for justice. When an injustice has taken place, it shakes us to our very core and invigorates our desire to see the scales balanced. It is right and biblical for Christians to pursue this desire and to pursue justice for all people in all scenarios.
We must pursue the truth. Indeed, our pursuits of life and justice are not possible if we are not pursuing the truth. Lies like the sin of racism, which would have us believe that all people are not equally valuable, must be rejected in favor of the truth of God's word. If we do not pursue the truth that all life is valuable and worth preserving, we will not be able to pursue life. Similarly, in order to have justice, we must pursue the truth. If we are not pursuing justice with full knowledge of the truth, true justice is impossible. Without truth, calls for justice ring hollow, and a pursuit of justice without truth is no justice at all. To take a determinative stance on any issue without knowing the truth is the height of irresponsibility, and is at odds with biblical wisdom. The pursuit of truth is, perhaps, the most important thing a Christian can do during these times.
May God empower us to trust in him and be his ambassadors of life, justice, and truth.