“Okay that’s it!” I fumed. It was 3 AM and my wife and I had barely slept an hour before the jerks in the hotel room next to ours started screaming and arguing again. It was our second night in Boise, and our second night of dealing with these knuckleheads.
I tossed off the sheets, threw on some clothes and stormed out the door to face my noisy adversary. A drunk 20-something girl who was pounding on the door next to ours, and yelling “Hey lemme in!”. Some of her friends were a few feet away in the hotel hallway – all of them looked like they’d downed half a freight truck of booze.
“Miss, could you please just go down to the front desk and get a key? We’re trying to sleep here.”
The young lady rolled her eyes, mumbled an apology and stumbled away with her group. Another hotel guest a few doors down opened their door and peered out. “Seriously you guys I have kids and we have to get up in three hours!” The haggard woman glanced over at me and shook her head – we both were feeling harassed by these brats.
Some time went by and once again we heard the booze crew stumble down the hallway and talk loudly in exaggerated whispers. I heard a thump on our door and fast footsteps race into their room, slamming their door behind them. I got up again, resigned to the fact I was done sleeping for the night, and opened my door to find a nasty post-it note affixed to my doorknob. They’d called me every name in the book and they’d left an even nastier note on the mom’s door a few feet away.
I was livid. This was a four-star hotel and I was stuck dealing with what amounted to a bunch of irresponsible children, who thought it was funny to terrorize us as some sort of payback justice. I was ready to enact some justice of my own. I wrestled with the notion of slamming my fists into their door until they answered and then beating them into a pulp until they were finally silent. But my wife, the level-headed one in our marriage, calmed me down enough to take a more responsible approach.
It wasn’t my place to enact justice. I simply needed to call on the powers that be – the hotel management – to deal with them. After a short conversation with the night manager I returned to my room and waited. Within ten minutes a quiet knock sounded on my neighbor’s door and I ran to the peep hole to watch “the show”. Two police officers stood inches away from me. I couldn’t wait to see these little creeps get what they deserved. But when they finally answered the door, the police were very soft spoken, cordial even. They told them it was time to go, calmly explained their rights, and listened to these kids’ ‘sob story’ – they were getting out of Oregon to escape the summer fires that were burning through the region. They were tired and they were very sorry for causing problems for everyone.
I wanted to swing open the door and scream – “You’re so full of sh#t – arrest them!” But I didn’t. I watched as the officers consoled them about their situation, offer some alternative places they could stay, and gently led them away from the room.
I wanted justice, but the police were offering them mercy.
As 2020 continues to unfold I see the parallels in our country at large. We see people of all races, backgrounds, and beliefs demand justice, scream for justice, and even break the law in the name of justice, all while enacting injustice on those around them.
The country is burning, riots are in the street, and no one feels safe. It’s not all that different from Jesus’s time.
In 63 BCE the Roman triumvir Pompey the Great captured Jerusalem. Clashes with Jewish nationalists were only averted due to the Herod family’s regional reign (Herod was both Jewish and a friend of Rome – he and his sons weren’t well liked by his people but his reign ensured Rome’s influence was mostly peaceful, and he brought financial prosperity to the country for many years). After the Herods lost power, Roman procurators were placed in charged of Israel’s cities – the fifth of which was Pontius Pilate. During these days Jews regularly protested the government’s rule of law and in 66 AD the Jews rebelled against Rome outright. Within a year the protesters had reduced the holy temple to ashes and had to be violently put down by the Roman forces under the future emperor Titus.
Times were dark. People were scared and everyone was angry. Enter Jesus. A carpenter’s son who espoused no political agenda, demanded nothing of the government, but offered a vision of the future that was so radical it changed mankind forever.
Love Your Enemy.
These three words seemingly went against Mosaic law, threatened the hierarchy of power in religious institutions and made the emperor pause to take notice.
Jesus’s approach to revolution wasn’t based on man’s limited understanding of justice, he understood that true justice would have terrible consequences on mankind.
It would be a sword that would slay both the oppressed and the oppressor. God’s perfect law demanded impeccable standards – it was the same law passed down to Moses in the form of the ten commandments.
You know the “thou shalt not steal, murder, lust, lie or covet?” If you feel a tinge of guilt when I mention these you’re not alone.
No one in history has been able to meet God’s requirements – except his son, Jesus. And in God’s perfect plan he offered us all a pardon from eternal damnation by repenting and accepting Christ’s sacrifice.
God wrote the rule-book to the universe – laws that would keep creation intact and orderly, perfect and un-besmirched by evil – but he also added a clause to his rules without ever breaking one of them.
The clause was redemption for his enemies – a way for his children who loved to sin, to come to him without sin’s stain.
There is no one in history more deserving of justice, who has more claim to retribution than Christ. He was spat on, arrested, beaten and ultimately nailed to a tree and murdered for our crimes. Even in his final hours he could’ve easily snapped his fingers (like Thanos in the Avengers) and dusted every one of his enemies in a heartbeat. Instead he healed them.
When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “LORD, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. – Luke 22:49-51
Imagine healing your enemy instead of attacking him?
By addressing the pain in our society with empathy, by loving those that wrong us and humanizing their fears and needs, we do as Christ did. We circumvent political bias, ignorance and hatred. We get to the heart of our enemy and unearth a human being that’s capable of love, repentance and change.
Loving as God does doesn’t mean we suffer others’ injustice against us in silence – we dialogue with those who mistreat us, express how they’ve hurt us and offer them a pardon. But even if they refuse to see the destruction of their actions, we leave justice and the heart work to God’s hands, not our own.
There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.
– James 2:13
So if you’re facing those who would spit on you, slander your name or even attack you, remember – If Christ, who had every reason to enact justice on YOU, stays his hand to offer redemption and mercy, how much more should YOU offer it to your enemy?
In 2020, Don’t Pray for Justice. Pray for Mercy For All of Us.