Justice, the Form of Mercy

Dude, it’s about justice. Sometimes we must say that justice is mercy, which God will deal to deliver those who are hurting: without justice being done, without that love of God which is stronger than death, mercy will ultimately be hollow. But how will it come upon us?

Jonathan Robinson’s claim, in arguing for Jesus and Paul and others not prooftexting or excising parts of the Old Testament, is that God’s favour isn’t nice (HT: John Hobbins). Thus,

when Jesus and Paul and the others use the OT they do not just proof-text wildly but have a profound intertextual hermeneutic.

In the community, then, there’s a point in praying imprecatory psalms in the face of racial hate crimes. For revenge? no, not for the place of God. To avoid making the Church (as representative of the human commonwealth) equal to God, we do have to say vengeance is from above in ways that are higher than ours, higher than all our agenda. Nevertheless, the Church must hear and proclaim God’s holy word, ‘nice’ feelings of shame be damned.

Hate crimes and cries for justice

This posture, I suppose, stands behind Laura’s statements:

We do not serve the victims of these hate crimes when we accept the shame that rightly belongs to the perpetrators, which echoes, in some way, our own personal and cultural experiences and transgressions. We do so when we stand beside the wronged groups and individuals, no matter how uncomfortable and unfamiliar that may be at times, and make a statement to the perpetrators of these actions: ‘Shame on you. We reject you and your actions. Make amends and ask forgiveness.’ When we call upon, not our Lord the God of mercy, but our Lord the God of justice.

For Laura points out – rightly, I think – that to ‘spend our best prayers, feelings, and energy’ on understanding and inhabiting the minds, hearts, and motivations of the perpetrators of these crimes is to perpetuate the historic privilege given to the experience of oppressors. It happens also to be the inevitable result of individualistic, pietistic thinking in the privileged sectors of the Church. It must stop. Yes, attend to the plank in your eye, but be guided by God’s eye.

Confident in God’s assurances (‘blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.’), we can stand with the victims despite the uncleanness of our lips. Because of God, there can be a ‘we’ in spite of our inadequacies, and we need not spend hours and days primarily wallowing in shame when we know the favour of God that now covers us. It’s not about you: it’s about the authority and might of the Holy Spirit whose breath animates the Church. Receive the body of Christ, and be that martyr Body.

Now go join the discussion.


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