Longing for Justice
Lectionary Reading: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 (NRSV)
When I was in elementary school, a bully got the best of me. It lasted for over a year until we moved to a different town. The kind of humiliation that comes with being bullied by someone else impacts people in different ways.
For me, I vowed never to let anyone bully me again even if it meant getting beat up. This meant for some close calls later in school but I never felt that same kind of antagonism.
What it left in me was a sense of embarrassment over my past. I thought about getting even. I thought about going back to the old neighborhood and challenging him to a fight.
There seemed to be some wrong that was done to me that needed to be righted. I wanted justice. I wanted him to hurt just like I had been hurt. An eye for an eye after all.
As I matured, I realized that these fantasies about revenge were not helping me. I was not growing as an individual. In fact, they were holding me back.
I realized that I needed to forgive the bully whether I ever spoke to him in person or not.
It was difficult but I asked God’s help and I was able to forgive. My guess is that I had thought a lot more about him than he ever thought about me. But after I forgave him in my heart, I quit thinking about him. It became less embarrassing as I recognized that I was just a child. I realized the pain that he must be going through in order to inflict pain upon others.
Certainly, if this was behavior that was continuing rather than in the past, this would be a different situation. But it was something that had ceased. It was only continuing in my mind. It’s a terrible thing to let someone have that kind of influence over you.
And so as I consider God’s justice, I think that this means something different than human justice. We try to even things out but God deals in mercy and forgiveness. We experience the forgiveness of God more fully when we have dealt with truly forgiving another for a wrong done to us. Isaiah reminds us that God’s covenant is everlasting. As we look toward the nativity once more, we see that God is willing to be vulnerable so that we might know divine love. Even though this seems maybe one-sided or unfair, because of the love God has for us, God may feel that we are getting what we deserve.
And so Christmas gives us a glimpse of God’s justice.
"Batman" by Ed Merritt via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.