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Sunday, November 14, 2004 

Three Cheers for Justice?

The pastor of my home church in New Orleans use to quip, "Divorce is for life, but a good lawyer can get you out of Angola for murder in seven years." Unfortunately for Scott Peterson, he didn't have a good lawyer. Friday he was convicted by a jury in Redwood City, CA of murdering not only his pregnant wife, but also his unborn child, Conner. He is likely going to prison for life, if not the electric chair for 5 minutes or so.

It seems to have been the consensus around this country, even before the trial began, that Peterson was guilty of killing his wife, Laci, and their unborn son. Now, five months after the trial began and almost 2 years following Laci's disappearance, a California court agrees. What I believe to be the most interesting thing about the trial, however, is what happened when the verdict was read. According to Julia Prodis Sulek, writing for Knight Ridder Newspapers:

Cheers broke out among the onlookers -- some of whom pumped their fists in celebration upon hearing the news on the radio. They cheered Laci Peterson's family and booed Scott Peterson's as they left court. "He's a sicko. He needs to fry. I wanted to see that justice was served," Bob Johnston said.
As I watched this scene unfold on television, I saw numerous women hugging one another while crying and even laughing. My gut reaction was, "Why on earth are these people happy. A court has just declared someone 'guilty'. Shouldn't there be sadness and mourning over this atrocity." But as I began to think more about it, I realized that what these women and men were elated over was not that someone was convicted, but rather that someone was convicted. These people were crying out for justice and were joyous to see that their voices had been heard.

This made me think about the voices of the martyrs described in the book of Revelation. In chapter 6, the elder apostle John says,

When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of
those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the
testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice,
saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also."

What a scene this must have been for John! And what marvelous encouragement this must have been to the once and future sufferers who lived under the iron fist of Roman control. Here we have numerous martyrs still waiting to see justice be done.

For sinful humans, justice is something for which we never cease to pursue. When we are wronged in the job market, we utter the word "discrimination" and call the ACLU; when we feel we have been mistreated by a friend, we claim "disloyalty"; and when we just generally don't get our way, we say we have been "wronged" because we deserve better. Yet it never seems to cross our mind that we have committed a multitude of ultimate wrongs by sinning against a Holy God who "gives to all people life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:25). So as I thought about that mob scene of onlookers cheering the verdict against Scott Peterson, I wondered why we as Christians did not seek the justice of God in our own lives more; why we do not recognize our own sin and repent; and why we are so quick to thank God for justice being done in a murder case and yet so slow to praise Him for not pouring out His wrath upon us who prostitute ourselves out to the world every day.

This trial is not over. Soon the same set of jurors will decide what punishment Scott Peterson will face for his crimes. As you hear more and more in the coming days think not about what this man deserves and ultimately receives, but rather on what we, as God's chosen people, deserve and yet do not receive because One who did not deserve death took it upon Himself for our sakes and His Glory.

Soli Deo Gloria,

About me

Paul was not interested merely in the ethical principles of religion or of ethics. On the contrary, he was interested in the redeeming work of Christ and its effect upon us. His primary interest was in Christian doctrine, and Christian doctrine not merely in its presuppositions but at its centre. -- J. Greshem Machen.

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