As the story of the Boston marathon bombings unfolds, I am continually surprised at some of the 'Christian' responses I have seen published on Facebook and other formats. This is not a running commentary of right, wrong or indifferent but a commentary on being the judge. What I have heard a lot of from Christians that I know, even some I respect has been a guttural reaction to a want and desire for justice to be served and quickly. "Find um and kill em!" It is a desire for retribution. And I was reminded that there is a case for retribution offered in Scripture. It comes in the book of Job.
Rather than offer up a reading of the 42 chapters of Job, here is a quick synopsis. God and Satan (the adversary) are discussing things in the heavenly courts. Satan suggests people love God for what God provides for their lives; food shelter, livelihood etc. God tells of his most faithful servant Job - a man of complete integrity. God allows Satan to take away all of the things in Job's life testing his physical health, taking away his family and belongings and making him wish he had never been born. So, in mourning, Job tears his clothes shaves his head and sits on the city dump in complete sadness for his life. Job's 'friends' come to comfort him. They insist that he has done something wrong to deserve this punishment from God. Job maintains his innocence. The book intertwines the conversations between Job, his friends and God from there.
The case for retribution is not just insisting that punishment like the removal of stuff and health is in the best interest for God operates divine justice but Job's friends case for retribution is to take on God's role of judge. And that is the problem with retribution or vigilante justice; it is the sin that caused us to get kicked out of Eden. We all want to be God, judge jury and executioner. This is the desire for those who insist on justice that rings of retribution...we want to be God. God's justice is a bit different though. And while I'm not insisting that justice not be served to those who brought death and harm and acts of terror to the city of Boston. I do think that we stop insisting on retribution. This is not a Christian ideal. And part of our Christian identity is to be moved beyond our own selfish desires and sinful ways. In the end, God is judge and that should be a welcome promise to us
On Tuesday, I was invited to a lunch to welcome, listen and discuss with Father Jamal Khader, Chair of the Department of Religious Studies and Dean of the Faculty of Arts at Bethlehem University. Father Jamal is a teacher and a Christian. His influence and understanding of issues in the Middle East were rewarding to hear. In his presentation at Carroll University, Father Jamal articulated a remarkable difference of Bethlehem University than is found on our cable news stations. Here he says "it is not uncommon for Christians and Muslims to constantly be at peace and find a vision of hope for their shared future together."
Amazing. As Father Jamal continued to talk about the students and faculty of Bethlehem University and the encounter of 'the other,' it was an applied hope that was articulated in the fact that there was not just tolerance. Tolerance is literally tolerating or putting up with someone who is different than 'us.' No, Father Jamal expressed that in the university, in Bethlehem, smack dab in the middle of the Middle East, there was a place of peace and acceptance. Acceptance is accepting people for who they are rather than trying to convert them to who we are or to our ideas. It is a respect for the person that God has created them to be and accepting the person, regardless of affiliation to religion, ideology and politics. And all the while this is happening, there is a huge wall that stands as a reminder that there is a third group not present; the Jews. Father Jamal answered this question quite quickly - because they are not allowed. Notkept out but they are not allowed by the Israeli government. That too is a constant reminder of who is not yet part of this dialogue and experience of peace and acceptance.
On a lighter note; when Father Jamal was asked if the nuns at the university wore veils to cover their heads; his response was - "you have nuns who are not covered?" I was so honored to be a part of this conversation and the hope for further peace and understanding helps me cling to the promises of peace from the God we worship.