Justice, with a side order of…

While I’ve known for years that you can order a side salad with a burger, I never have.  This isn’t because it wouldn’t taste good, it’s because I’m a man and the only salad a man eats with a burger is the salad that’s already in the burger… and if you are as manly as my friend Matt, sometimes not even then.

A man orders some form of potato with his hamburger, the only question is what kind of potato it’s going to be.  A young man gets tater tots, an older man gets  french fries, an old man gets “steak fries”, a fancy man gets curly fries, and the man’s man goes “all in” with the baked potato, baco’s, and two ice cream scoops of sour cream.

I often see women augment their burger order with a side salad or even a cup of minestrone.  This is because women like to finish a meal and then have the ability to stand and walk around immediately afterwards.

What you order with your main course tells the waiter exactly what you like, and what you like tells the people around you the kind of person that you are.

Sunday night, the United States of America was treated to a main course of justice by its government.  We learned that Osama Bin Laden met the fate of a man who plots the destruction of the innocent.  We all got to pick the side order.

Some of us ordered a side of exuberance.  Baseball stadiums erupted into chants and song, people took to the streets shouting and waving flags, cars honked their horns and I’m certain somebody in a frat house somewhere cranked the stereo with something by Toby Keith.  A lot of people were acting like they just got a lot safer.

At ground zero in New York City, there was the odd mingling of pockets of excitement and sobering melancholy.  Some of them were hoping to celebrate… some of them were hoping to find closure.

Justice is a necessary pursuit of human government.  True Christians believe that it’s been authorized by God.  Christians also understand that because of God’s mercy they have not received his justice but his grace.  Christians are called to live in the hope that every human, from the mildly profane to the desperately wicked, will repent of their wickedness and embrace that same mercy.

Last week, Osama Bin Laden received America’s justice instead of mercy.  In his next moment he also discovered whether or not he would experience God’s sovereign justice or grace.  It’s not at all a cause for celebration.  The pronouncement of judgment pains God himself.

“Say to them; As I live,’ says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?”– Ezekiel 33:11

What you order to go along with justice is a strong indicator about how you see God, and how you feel about the misery of others.  The death of Bin Laden, however just it may be, merely offers closure and forward movement for the people he afflicted.

Christians, mindful of the grace they received through the injustice that Christ experienced, also have the freedom to order what they want alongside their justice, but they also bear the responsibility that comes with that freedom.  For Christians, Sunday night was a sobering opportunity to either rejoice in the destruction of their enemy, or express gratefulness for the peace that the divine mingling of justice and mercy brings mankind.

What we order with our main course tells the people around exactly what we like, and what we like tells the people around us the kind of people we are.

This is the kind of table that we want to be able to walk away from… feeling good.

Many sorrows come to the wicked,
but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord. –Psalm 32:10

16 Responses to “Justice, with a side order of…”

  1. Paul Elmore May 2, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

    It is no easy task trying to balance grace with mercy, justice with forgiveness, or consequences with compassion. I wish it were as easy as saying, “See. In the Bible God always treats people this way or that way.” But it doesn’t play out that way in life. God is messy. And trying to do what God wants us to do can be even messier.

    Thanks Jon for recognizing this fact. The answers aren’t as easy as putting a comment on Facebook or a blog somewhere.

    I find reassurance in knowing that I serve a just and righteous God who is good ALWAYS. I strive to treat others the way He has treated me, knowing that I might not always get it right. I’ll trust that God knows my heart and I will humbly place myself under his judgement.

    • Jon May 2, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

      So right on Paul… I love the idea that many wounded people have some measure of closure and healing now, and I also I hate the idea that anyone suffers under God’s righteous wrath. Thanks for all you do to help move people forward to wholeness in Christ.

  2. Milo Curtis May 2, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    Love your perspective here Jon. The one liner posts on FB and twitter (of which I’ve been a part) have definitely given me a perspective on how people want to compliment their sense of justice.

    I think it also gives me a sense of what people think requires justice. While Osama Bin Laden was a prime candidate for what he got, it begs the question, “What do I deserve and what short list would I be on for the injustices I’ve committed.” The answer to that seems to dictate the side orders of hubris or humility.

    Thanks for getting the brain juices churning.

    • Jon May 2, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

      “What do I deserve and what short list would I be on for the injustices I’ve committed.”

      So money…

      Thanks for sharing.

  3. Jesse May 2, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

    I have been bothered by some of my Christian friends on facebook who have used this as an opportunity to politicize the event, and then others who have evoked feelings of WWJD. It seems they have forgotten that many times God does dole out punishment. In a perfect world Osama would be given his chance to repent of what he did and convert to Christianity, but we all know that would never happen. In this case it seems that worldly punishment was in order. And while we shouldn’t be happy about one of God’s children dying this was clearly an instance where it was warranted.

    Also I think we should be happy about having a leader who took a clear course of action and had a plan. He did not bomb the whole area and took every effort to minimize collateral damage.

    • Jon May 2, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

      I love what you’re saying. People tend (me included) to sprinkle self justification onto whatever they feel like doing, often times invoking God in the process.

      Along these lines I think it needs to be noted that even if Osama did repent of his sins and seek forgiveness, there would still have been a moment of restitution required. People who molest children, then trust Jesus, still have to face the punishment for their crime.

      As far as coming through under pressure, This is a stand up double in the bottom of the ninth for Obama.

    • Jean May 2, 2011 at 7:09 pm #

      Thank you for this blog post and for the response from Jesse. As an American, I felt a great sense of pride in the actions that were taken: swift and just. Then,as responses flowed in on Facebook from Christian friends, I struggled with that pride, and subsequent relief I felt about the event. I never rejoice in the death of a human soul, nor do I feel hatred towards this particular person. Yet, I do recognize that – for the good of the human race – his death was absolutely necessary to heal the souls of countless others who were affected, directly and indirectly, by the truly evil actions and choices of this individual… not to mention countless others who may have suffered at his hand, had he lived. Does this make me less Christian? I don’t think so.

  4. Chris Nye May 2, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    So. Good. I think I might quote you on my blog…we all need to be reminded that God’s is not the lion who is waiting to pounce on the weak and throw them into the Hades so he can smirk and say, “I told you so” – that’s actually our own hearts imposed on a God who thinks differently. The verse from Ezekiel is going to do some work on me. Thanks, Jon.

    • Jon May 2, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

      God’s “I told you so” would so crush me. I’m so grateful he doesn’t need to say it. Good word broseph.

  5. Sharon O May 2, 2011 at 4:12 pm #

    I was glad to see the man taken down, I was also concerned and confused as to how the President referred to it as ‘I commanded it’… yes he did as the commander in chief but the hard work was done the men in the dirt, the forces following and pursuing in the enemies territories and in combat zones. I am saddened by the responses that ‘so’ many of faith have said on the internet and facebook. We must choose our words wisely. And be deep in prayer for the enemy is gone but his helpers perhaps are not. We live in times of chaos and we must be continually on our knees praying for the warfare surrounding us. Thank you for your wise words.

    • Jon May 2, 2011 at 5:06 pm #

      As far as I understand, The President ordered the insertion of soldiers as opposed to the bombing that his advisers suggested. If that insertion was in violation of our agreements with Pakistan, he has to take responsibility for it so that everyone is aware that the president authorized the specific action. It lets Pakistan know that if they don’t like it, it came from the top.

  6. Casey Dugan May 2, 2011 at 9:23 pm #

    I remain unsettled about this. I wish that there were a very specific red-letter reference that addressed this issue. The notion that anyone’s death is justified has never set well with me. As Jesse pointed out, though, it is hard to imagine OBL accepting Christ and repenting. There are many more like him, coming right behind him – all who need prayer and for whom Christ also died. God does punish the wicked, and I believe that he never relishes that. Ultimately I suspect that these sorts of things are part of living in a fallen world, living in enemy-held territory, to paraphrase CS Lewis. It makes it difficult for Kingdom living here on Earth and there is never anything easy about that.

    • Jon May 2, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

      I totally hear what you are saying and what’s awesome is that you are authentic enough to let this be troubling. Bummed me out to see the celebrations. I’m trusting that his end was ordained in the same way God allowed Babylon to lay waste the Israel… It just doesn’t make me feel any better. Thanks for your insight and candor. God Bless you amigo.

  7. John L Weitzel May 3, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    Thanks for writing about this topic. Too many of my friends wave the flag and cheer and shout about a death of a man with language of revenge. Vengeance belongs to God alone, as I understand it (Romans 12:19). The government sought justice and I suppose it was wise to go after him. Should we have jailed him instead to give him the opportunity to repent? I just feel more somber about the situation than “joyful”. What should we rejoice in, the death or new life? There are plenty of people who become extremely animated and explode with ‘joy’ over a homerun or touchdown or political or military victory but barely emote at a baptism or during song and worship time. Baffles me.

    • Jon May 3, 2011 at 4:26 pm #

      I wish what you were saying wasn’t true, but it is. The people of Israel celebrated God and his victories that delivered them from their enemies. Right now there’s unfortunately a lot of tasteless celebration of death and Americanism. Nationalism isn’t necessarily wrong, but it also isn’t Christianity. I’ve found that walking a line of gratefulness for justice and celebrating hope in the midst of anger and hatred is always difficult… but worthwhile. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Charley Blom May 5, 2011 at 4:55 pm #

    Thoughtful. I too was disturbed by the celebration. We as Christians need a response somewhere inbetween. Albert Mohler
    had an interesting point, that this wasn’t “Justice” in the sense of court trial etc., but an act done in the midst of a war. It needed to be done, he was an enemy of the USA, but we didn’t get the opportunity to have him jusged in a court of law.
    Then the response of Christians. How do we “turn the other cheek” or say with our dying Lord, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they do.”
    Thanks for addressing the whole issue.

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