When Christians Favor Justice Over Mercy

Just recently there was a court case that I had never heard about until a friend of mine, Hannah Pate, brought it to my attention. Everyone else who actually watched the news knew what was going on; I had been too buried in my studies to take much notice.

The courtroom case was concerning Casey Anthony who was on trial, on trial for the murder of her child. I went and reviewed the various pieces of evidence and though I personally believe that Casey and her family are quite messed up, the evidence was circumstantial and the jury gave the right verdict in accordance with the law. However, I believe that Casey Anthony killed her child.

This past Sunday, my Sunday school teacher Brett McGill brought up the case and how many people are going to be out to take the law into her own hands because they believe she is guilty. Even though a court of law, in my view, correctly found her innocent based on the evidence, she may still be executed by some crazed (probably Christian) vigilante screaming about justice.

But what is she is guilty and we did  have the evidence to prove that?

Many Christians are in favor of capital punishment, but many are not. If it was clear that she killed her child, how many of us would be calling for blood, like the crazed crowds that used to gather to watch public executions. We would not even hesitate on passing judgment and sentencing her to death.

But should that be our disposition?

There will always be reasons, emotionally, to justify our deeds. What if she killed one of my kids?

When the United States was attacked on September 11, 2001 by 12 deranged Islamic extremists loyal to Al Qaeda, what was the response of the nation? Rage of course; rage and a thirst for vengeance coursed through the veins of both Blue States and Red States. We did not want justice; we wanted vengeance and vengeance is what we took.

But what was the church’s response?

I wish I could say that mostly what I heard were offers of forgiveness and pleas for mercy. I wish I could say that what most churches did was try to curb the anger that a vengeful powerful nation could vent on its attackers. I wish I could say we sought for peace and for making things right on our end; even to the point of questioning how we could have indirectly helped it occur.

But we did not, instead we joined the war rhetoric and the call for a new Crusade. Missionaries got into Iraq after US soldiers invaded; whether it was sketchy or not, it looks sketchy and never before did American Christians get so close to their European Medieval counterparts.

Whether you believe in just war, capital punishment, or many other issues concerning the definition of justice is besides the point. The point is Christians should always err on the side of mercy; we are the people of second, third, fourth, and so on chances. If we will not stand for mercy, grace, compassion, and forgiveness, who will? If we seek only to punish but not reconcile, what have we done to the message of the Gospel?

Does Casey Anthony deserve mercy? No, probably not…but neither do I and neither do you. If Christ forgives me but I cannot forgive the man who brutally murders my family, how can I claim to be a follower? It would be wretchedly difficult, but if I love God I would desire to have mercy and compassion on that man. It is not about me and my family; its about the Gospel and the message of hope that Jesus brings to every liar, child molester, greedy corporate mogul, and yes…even murderer.

For in Christ, all the Father sees is his Son.

So brothers and sisters, if we must err…let us err on the side of mercy.

Grace and Peace