We must surely say, very little, if any at all. Seldom do we hear of prolonged works of conviction in the hearts and minds of men and women today, and the process seems to be, superficially wounded, superficially healed.
One of the major causes, of course, is the setting aside of any necessity to see the sinner brought to a knowledge of the guilt of their sin. But the one very vital feature that has been omitted right at the beginning is guilt. But, it is not the acknowledgement of sin that is required, it the guilt of sin.
And yet, the call seldom goes out for the sinner to seek mercy; he is rather to receive love. Now, why is that? Well, has it not got something to do with the lack of guilt in the sinner's hearts and minds? If there is no awareness of an awful guilt in having sinned against a Holy and Righteous God, then there is little significance in looking for mercy from a compassionate and forgiving God. It can be as simple as a drug-crazed addict shooting someone to get enough cash for his next fix, or as complicated as the financial conspiracies that have driven thousands of people from their homes or multinational corporations that have wreaked havoc both on our environment and on the lives of countless people.
Something inside us cries out for justice, for some kind of forgiveness out of all the evil that has been done, some way of rectifying the wrong. In the face of evil deeds, we want to see justice done. But what is justice? Is it an eye for an eye? A tooth for a tooth? A life for a life?
Somewhere between justice and mercy, where are we?
Will punishing Ahab and Jezebel bring Naboth back to life and restore the vineyard? Or will it just satisfy our human thirst for revenge?
An example: there was an execution in Utah. A man convicted of murder back in was executed by a firing squad. Barring a stay by Sup Ct, and with my final nod, Utah will use most extreme power and execute a killer. Mourn his victims.
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And what if we are wrong? You know the story of Ray Krone from Dover, twice convicted of a murder in Arizona, 10 years in prison, 4 on death row, then exonerated by DNA evidence, where is his justice? And suppose, just for a moment, that you are part of a group that was ripped from their homes and sent into a foreign land to work as slaves, with little or no opportunity for obtaining your freedom.
What would justice look like to you? Punishment for your captors? Or just your freedom? What if your life savings were wiped out by the greedy? What if you lost your home because you could no longer make the mortgage payments?
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What if you were falsely accused of a crime you did not commit? What would justice look like? Righting of wrongs? Or is there more to it than meets the eye?
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What if you really were guilty of some infraction? Some evil deed? I remember a fellow clergy telling me how he was stopped by police on his way to work.
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There was a great relief when all that was issued was a warning. Apparently the officers showed mercy. Makes one ponder. A classic example closer to home is the recent shooting of the Zimbabwean national who made a U-turn before a road in attempt to evade the law. Perhaps the officer accused of shooting him did not shoot with the intent to kill. But the matter now is that the officer, who acted while on duty, is now in custody with no option for bail.
Many would say justice should take its course, and the officer deserves to stay behind bars.