The Long Arm of the Law
June 28 05
Right now in America, we are experiencing the human cry for justice. Edgar Ray Killen has just been sentenced for his part in the slayings of three civil rights workers that took place over forty years ago. Justice is also being sought at this time for the death of Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old youth who was killed by two men more than fifty years ago. As new evidence and new attitudes emerge, cases like these are being prosecuted.
Many Americans are glad to see that these murderers are coming to justice. We feel that if evidence comes to light, we should pursue the truth to the end. We feel that if these perpetrators are found guilty in a court of law, they should be sentenced appropriately. For some people, this sense of justice comes only from feelings of revenge and hatred, but for others, it comes from a deep sense of care for society; we want to know that murderers are not free to murder again, that rapists are taken off the streets, that child molesters will never again be around children.
It is this latter attitude that most reflects God's justice. Yahweh is a God of love; He cares for and loves each and every person He has created, even the murderers. Yet, God is also -- and equally -- a God of justice. He cannot be unfair or unjust. He has given us a set of laws by which we must live and these laws reflect His expectations concerning our love for Him and for the people around us. When we break these laws, there are consequences. Not every murderer will be brought to justice in a human court, but we know that God has an account of every action on the part of every person ever to live on this earth.
Christians are those who have accepted God's pardon. We were found guilty, but God paid the fine for us; He lived out the sentence of death that should have been ours. The fine has been paid and Christians have accepted His payment for the penalty of our sins. But what about those who have yet to accept His gift of pardon?
It's funny how people want to see justice when it comes to other people. We applaud the jury in Mississippi for putting Killen away, but even then there are many who are upset that the jury convicted Killen only on the charges of manslaughter and not murder. We want judgement to come down on others, but we don't think God will, or should, judge us. But apart from Christ, that is precisely what will happen. We feel good about murderers and rapists going to prison or getting the death sentence, but we ignore our own sins. In fact, people can get very offended if asked about God's judgement of their sins.
Many people will say that their sins are rather small in comparison to others' sins, yet we know that telling a lie is no greater or lesser a sin than murder, according to the commandments of God. So, the question goes something like this: If you are being suspended a thousand feet in the air by a ten-link chain, does it matter which link breaks? We know that the compromise of any one of those links will do us in. Likewise, the Bible says that if we break one commandment, we are guilty of breaking them all (James 2:10).
Some people will admit to breaking God's law, but point out that it happened many years ago and they haven't sinned lately. Then the question is this: If someone killed one of your children ten years ago, but was never caught, should he be forgotten? If he was just found this week, should he be set free simply because the murder took place ten years ago? Most people would say that he should be brought to justice, if for nothing else than to get him off the streets before he kills someone else. And, of course, we see in the Edgar Ray Killen case the conviction of a man who masterminded a murder plot over forty years ago.
God's law has not changed because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Some would say that God's law is outdated, but when we die, He will judge us by that law, the Ten Commandments. If we are covered by the sacrifice of Christ, we will be found innocent. If, however, we have not accepted Christ as our Savior, we are subject to the full punishment of the law: eternal death in the lake of fire.
As we watch these trials today, we are reminded that God sees everything and He never forgets. Our lives are forever before Him and He is the Judge. It is His love for us that caused Him to leave the bench and pay the penalty for us. Now it is up to us to accept His gift. And if you have accepted His gift, won't you let others know the danger they are in? Let them know that judgement is coming, no matter the infraction or how long ago it was committed. Then let them know they can enjoy the same pardon that you enjoy today.