I did the the fall chore of cleaning out my garden. I'd ignored the plants for the last couple of weeks. My zucchini had sacrificed all its energy to this last monster. When I brought it into the house my eldest screamed. The youngest was less than thrilled.
The zucchini plant itself was difficult to get out of the garden bed. I had to glove up because I have an allergic reaction every time I touch the leaves. You can see the scratches in my arm. The leaves were massive. The plant has grown to the point it was blocking the sun from my tomato plants. The tomatoes did terrible this year. I also stepped on a rotting bit. Nasty gross. The filth stunk. It had to go.
Later my husband and I discussed a few local and national news stories. Scary. The local paper had some extended coverage of the rise and fall of a local pastor. Such a sad story. Heroin and pastor should not be in the same sentence.
Lots of people say the Bible is only about love and we should never judge others. If you've read the full story you'll know love and grace are certainly primary themes. But so it justice.
The third chapter of Karen Swallow Prior's book "On Reading Well" also focuses on justice. I so appreciated reading through this chapter. Prior walked through a loaded topic with grace and thoughtfulness. I'm quite simply not going to be able to do justice to the chapter here (see what I did there?) I do want to share a few of my favorite quotations which were mulling through my head as I processed the morning news.
"When the justice system becomes a form of entertainment, it is surely unjust."
"Excessive anger distorts justice, turning it into vengeance."
"Injustice, no matter who seemingly private, always has public consequences."
"Compassion is individual and voluntary. It also has no cost. Justice on the other hand, exacts a price. Because the world is broken, making what is wrong right is costly. In other words, justice requires sacrifice." - On Reading Well
Here is what I know for sure about justice. God is not concerned about maintaining institutions or protecting false reputations. He is concerned about people. He is willing to tear down walls, remove leaders, crash ministries and start all over if sin, violence, injustice or pride are present. Our sorrow shouldn't be people were caught. Our sorrow would be the sin and heartbreak happened at all. And our response shouldn't be to shake our heads and turn away. Our response should be to make things right, to grieve with victims, to preach truth to the fallen, to check our own lives for what is dead and rotting. Justice is hard work.
The Bible is full of stories where God let his people fail to clean up hypocrisy and restore a right heart. Don't believe me? Go read Joshua 7 or John 2 for two excellent examples. God's story will not be stopped and His glory is infinitely secure. The end of the story is a lot about setting what is wrong right, setting captives free, restoring what was lost. It's about justice.
Truth is we all deserve death. We're all offered grace. We all have the opportunity to wipe the eternal slate clean and start over. This being made right is what moved Jesus to take our place. Great sacrifice. Justice is a virtue and character of God. When we ignore the impacts of our sin or refuse to corporately make right a wrong we are cheapening the cross. Justice means God will remove whatever he has to so heaven's darling can be seen by everyone.
"But even forgiveness can not negate the ripple effects of the past. To pretend otherwise is itself a further injustice." -On Reading Well
You knew I'd loop back to that giant zucchini right? The analogy isn't perfect but it works. In order to get my garden ready to grow next year I had to haul out the dead and stinking plants. And next year I should plant my zucchini away from my tomato plants. I really want the tomatoes to see the sun. Let's make sure justice is a virtue we cultivate. We want the Son to be seen.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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