On Justice and Leaving Room for God

[one_half] September11[/one_half]
Our most traumatic day as a nation since December 7, 1941 began twelve years ago today at 8:46 a.m., September 11, 2001, when American Flight 11 crashed into North Tower of the World Trade Center. Shortly thereafter, airliners crashed into South Tower, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. By the end of the day, more than 3000 people had died in the most horrific terrorist attack in history. President Bush said this to the nation—

The search is underway for those who are behind these evil acts. I've directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them. 

The word that was stressed over and over was "Justice."  Since that statement was made, we have fought two wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) in which more Americans died than during the 9-11 attacks. We have launched countless lethal drone attacks and deployed teams of Special Forces warriors that led to the deaths of monsters like Osama bin Laden and many of his henchmen. But in the process, we have killed many innocent non-combatants and in the process created many more monsters. Is that really justice?

We haven't been very successful in fighting wars against unseen foes like communism and terrorism. Nor are we very good at learning lessons from those efforts where we essentially fight for a while, lose a lot of good people, kill many more people, and just quit and go home without seeing too much change. I wish someone would do a little more reflecting on that before we start lobbing missiles into Syria. I keep hearing this voice in the back of my head that sounds strangely like Dr. Phil saying, “So how’s that working for you?”

We must be a people who seek justice because God is a God of justice. The Old Testament law called for a justice of justice of punitive restitution for property crimes and an “eye for eye” reciprocity for violent crimes. Paul calls for kings to not only have swords, but use them as instruments of God (Rom 13:3-5). Jesus never doubted Pilate’s authority; he simply observed that Pilate had no power except what was given from above (John 19:11).  God created the nations and He is God above the nations.

But human justice is always a very tricky thing. Kings wielding swords in search of justice are just as likely to create more injustices. One of our congressman recently wondered if we were simply becoming too insensitive to the use of military force. That raises the question, "Have we become too insensitive to the injustices created by that use of force?" Does God care less about the children of the terrorist leaders killed with their fathers by our missiles than He did about the children who died in the September 11 attacks? Does God love more the children killed in chemical attacks in Syria than He loves the children that will certainly die in Syria if we go shooting missiles there? We may call those deaths "collateral damage," but we can't call it "justice"

OK, no pancake is so thin that it only has one side (my one political certainty). No issue is so clear that there isn't another way of looking at it. This blog started as a retrospective of 9-11 and it sorta just veered off in another direction looking for another point.  What is that point?  Ultimately, there is no real justice other than what comes from God... and sometimes we just have to wait on it. If we don't wait and leave room for God, we can mess justice up. That is why Paul warns us to leave room for God—

19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19–21)

What Paul says here is directed to individual Christians (who would become innocent victims of the very king wielding that sword) and not to nations. But maybe this is a warning for our supposedly Christian nation that getting sucked into a tit-for-tat cycle of violence is a sure way to be overcome by evil. We can get so focused on justice that we become the very thing that we hate!