Do We Want Justice Or Redemption?
I was reading this morning about the wrap up of the Jerry Sandusky case. In case you don't follow college sports (or national news), Sandusky was convicted of molesting and raping ten children over the past decade while working with the the Penn State football program, which hid knowledge of the events over those ten years. He will be in prison, very likely being molested himself, for the rest of his life, which, many like to say, is exactly what he deserves. I was also reading this morning from Zephaniah, which is a mostly depressing Biblical book about the actions of Israel and its neighbors and the sentence that would be administered to them over the next hundred years. Zephaniah reads a bit like the Sandusky case, Israel and her enemies are getting what they deserve.
But there is a distinct difference between the modus operandi of God and our justice system. Ever present in God's plan is redemption. Even in Zephaniah, after dealing out judgement on the nations He says, "I will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they all may call on the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one accord." God's end game is not a punishment to fit the crime, it is a means to restore Israel, even to bring redemption between her and her enemies.
God's posture is redemption, always. At one point the disciples asked if they should call down fire on those who were opposing Jesus. He rebuked them. Elsewhere Jesus said to Zacchaeus, "The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost." There are already enough people in the world calling down fire and only perpetuating devastation in the process. As Phillip Yancey put it, ungrace always produces more ungrace. In Shakespearean fashion, if you defeat your enemy you now have to worry about your enemies friends and family. Grace, always undeserved, says Yancey, is the only hope we have to break the cycle and bring redemption. It is the original sort of grace that Jesus expressed as he died on a symbol of justice, a device used to give people what they deserved. Undeserving of the punishment, He shouted out redemptive grace to people who deserved what He was getting.
So what do we want for someone like Sandusky? I imagine its probably the same thing I hear the loudest Christian voices saying about any other newsworthy pervert, negligent mother, serial killer, or terrorist. But if we want to follow Jesus, our strained reach should always be toward redemption, even under the most horrendous circumstances. There may be a point where we say, "That's just too far" but let's admit that we are the ones giving up on redemption, not God.