The Limits of Man’s Justice

I’ve been thinking of justice a lot lately, human justice to be specific.

Upon hearing the news that the fanatical Mohammedan terrorist Osama bin Laden had been killed by U.S. military, I felt no jubilation.

There was no toasting of champagne or setting off fireworks ’round the Prosser household on that night.

Don’t misunderstand me, I am no sympathizer for his cause, nor am I a Christian pacifist of the Quaker tradition. Simply, the execution of one more evildoer gives me only a passing relief.

But it seems such a cheap resolution, this thing we call justice. That the evil perpetuated should only pay a slim recompense. Indeed, one may take a thousand lives and only have to forfeit his own as punishment.

So too was it with the recent guilty verdict of Jesseca Bain Carson for the brutal murder of innocent Amora, like Blaine Keith Milam’s verdict a year prior. A life sentence for the former and the death penalty for the latter will not undo the agonies Amora suffered, no more than Osama bin Laden’s burial at sea will bring back the thousands who died during 9/11 or in the ensuing wars that have followed.

However, I am not oblivious to the purpose of such an action.

To eliminate this Saudi Arabian-born terrorist, who has demonstrated both a desire and ability to commit mass murder against the people of the West, makes perfect tactical sense. It made sense to do so in the years prior to the attacks in 2001 (as U.S. intelligence officials strongly recommended) and after, just as it made sense on Sunday, May 1.

A surgical strike by U.S. Navy Seals against an evil terrorist is a perfectly logical and rational decision for a commander-in-chief to make, especially in the interests of protecting his nation or eliminating a potential threat.

Justifiable even, but is it justice?

I am a married man with four young children. If I knew someone was going to attempt to harm one of them, I would do everything I could to prevent it from happening.

Same goes for my friends, relatives, or just neighbors. I’d never stand by as one person attempts to harm another. If I knew an individual planned to commit an act resulting in the injury or death of a number of people, I would do whatever I could to prevent it from happening…  even if I had to incapacitate the threat with extreme prejudice.

Is this justifiable? Sure. But is it justice?

Not long ago I was privileged to spend some time with a few local law enforcement officials in conversation about the case of little Amora Bain Carson. In the last few days I’ve spoken with friends who served in Afghanistan and Iraq as a result of the war on terrorism that was provoked by the terrorist attacks Osama bin Laden planned.

Each of them conceded the limitations of earthly justice, that it is but a pale shadow of divine justice. Even so, we do what we can.

So, as a follower of Jesus Christ and a native-born resident of a fallen world, I do not celebrate this shortcoming. For to treat this as a joyous event is to delight in vengeance, and vengeance has no place for those who honor justice.

“Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord, meaning He is the only one who can pursue such. Thus, we are commanded to entrust it unto Him to do so. God is capable of righteous judgment in a way that man can never be, only He can truly provide a just retribution.

People, on the other hand, tend toward the mismeasure of justice when it comes to settling our own sense of what is just.

Should we be glad that forces of the United States military have the means, the will, and the opportunity to remove this threat? Of course we should.

Should we find some degree of moral satisfaction in the fact that bin Laden did not die a natural death outside the reach of human justice? Certainly.

Should we be hopeful that such an action would serve as a warning to others who might plan similar actions? Of course.

But open patriotic celebration in the streets?

That looks far more like revenge in the eyes of a watching world, and it looks far more like we are simply taking satisfaction in the death of an enemy. That kind of revenge just produces greater numbers of enemies.

Those who practice evil and seek to harm others should be stopped, yes, and punished, also yes.

But a ticket-tape parade should not follow the electric chair, and dancing in the streets should not accompany the military execution of a terrorist.

To believe otherwise is to elevate the righteousness of humanity above that of the Lord.

A true vengeance, like divine justice, can only be achieved by Him.


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