Tag Archives: Mercy

Justice, mercy, and who we are: Some thoughts on the Pistorius trial and the Bible

I don’t think I found the trial, and now the sentencing, of Oscar Pistorius so compelling simply because I have been a lawyer; I honestly think I have followed the proceedings with so much interest because Judge Masipa has an uncommon apprehension of justice and mercy. And I believe she has a Biblical sense of these qualities, which, all too often, are left out to dry until sufficiently abstract.

Without mercy there can be no justice; and mercy demands justice, because without justice, mercy can only be misappropriated. Oscar killed Reeva. That is a terrible harm that can never be undone. But Oscar was not adjudicated to be a murderer. There must be mercy for Oscar, because Oscar is alive and utterly broken and in terrible pain, and Oscar needs mercy, very much.

You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. Selah.
You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger.
Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us!
Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your steadfast love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation. — Psalms 85:2-7 (ESV)

Genesis 9:6 unequivocally recites the law of murder being punishable by death:

“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” (ESV)

But Oscar Pistorius was not convicted of murder, but of culpable homicide, equivalent to a conviction of manslaughter in American jurisprudence–and the Word of God established cities of refuge for those who killed unintentionally.

“. . .then you shall select cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person without intent may flee there.
The cities shall be for you a refuge from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation for judgment.” —Numbers 35:11-12 (ESV)

If Oscar winds up under house arrest with forays of community service, it will be a humbling experience for him. He will not be in situations in which he needs to win, or could win, or take control. Other people will structure his time. And yes, he will also be safe from the collateral ravages of an inhumane prison: vindication of antisocial thinking and actions, AIDs and other diseases, rape, etc. All human beings deserve protection from such things, under any circumstances.

Whatever penalty Oscar Pistorius receives for his recklessness, his only celebrityship will be that of a fallen man. And I hope he will shine as a fallen man who, like Nebuchadnezzar, was made to hit the dirt; and, his lessons learned, was lifted up again.

“. . .and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” (See: Daniel 4:28-37)

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Week in a blink

God has renewed me this week through fellowship with friends, reading an encouraging lecture by the ever-wise and always timely Spurgeon, an inspiring update from some Christians in a country I will not name, who are friends of a friend; and, last but perhaps a bit less, resolution of a quest for a thoroughly competent 12-ounce travel tumbler (it’s been kind of a Holy Grail thing with me).

I sometimes forget how weather changes used to bring with them migraines and other symptoms that no longer inevitably come with the clouds. I resumed drinking coffee, and somehow discovered that drinking about five or six cups over the course of the day, from morning till after dinner, brought about better sleep uninterrupted by migraines. We have had sun, wind, and rain this week, and I enjoyed each as a blessing, rather than a source of terrible pain and exhaustion. I’m not pushing a coffee protocol—there’s no question my system is weirdly wired. I’m just thankful that such a simple thing as coffee has apparently brought me so much help.

As for the ankle I sprained getting up from sitting on the floor four weeks ago, I reckon two more weeks of taping will be sufficient to declare it healed. It still hurts too much to walk with it untaped, but taped, I can walk at my usual brisk-ish clip. I tape up my ankle every morning, but I can never remember the sequence for wrapping it effectively; I doubt I’ve wrapped it exactly the same way twice, but it always works. Like my wrapping technique, God’s mercies are new every morning.

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big with mercy

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.
(– William Cowper)

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Snippets of mercies

Reading Job this time around, my mind desires to make couplets and triplets from non-adjacent verses:

You have granted me life and favor,
And Your care has preserved my spirit. (10:12)

Know therefore that God exacts from you
Less than your iniquity deserves. (11:6)

Changes and war are ever with me. (10:17)

The tents of robbers prosper,
And those who provoke God are secure —
In what God provides by His hand. (12:6)

He pours contempt on princes,
And disarms the mighty. (12:21)

But it is easy to be tempted to do this throughout the book of Job, because Job is nothing if not thematic, and God’s revelation to the lamenting patriarch leaves no loose ends. Job’s lesson is, of course, our instruction, but I find myself almost envying him a little to have his misapprehensions so completely resolved and to have received so complete a reversal of his misfortunes. Job experienced the fullness of God’s sovereign mercy in his lifetime, but the extraordinary thing is that he fully realized this. Very few if any at all among us living will experience God’s sovereign mercy in as profound a way as Job did… and if we did, I wonder whether we would even apprehend the marvel of its gratuitousness.

Thanks in part to my cat having some announcements to make, my husband and I were up this morning to see the lunar eclipse. It was beautiful: red-edged and sun-bright against the clear, black, star-accented sky. I thought of the mercy God had given me, the mercy of wonder itself. To enjoy with wonder is indeed a merciful gift there is no way to deserve. Changes and war may ever be with me, but I doubt the robbers skulking in their tents have the same sense of wonder I mean.

I think today was the most beautiful wintry day the season has presented up to now. The tall spindly grasses had their proud day of glamour, wheat-white in sun-glinted frost that persisted throughout the day in the shade, even after the temperature became quite mild in the sun. Sunshine and beauty are certainly blessings, but it is only by gratuitous mercy that we appreciate them.

Ah, my husband just came in from his conservatively heated 55° shop and announced the winter breezes.

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