One of the agonies of injustice is the lack of resolution.
After RZIM imploded, there were multiple investigations. Independent journalists reported on many angles of the story. The abuse was repeatedly documented. But still, there's only partial accountability for those who caused me and others harm at RZIM. Prominent Christians continue working with them, promoting them, and celebrating their ministries.
But there's far, far worse.
As a historical example, what was it like for Venus, enslaved by Jonathan Edwards, to watch him use "the receipt for her sale as paper to write a sermon"? In this sermon, as Daniel Kleven notes, Jonathan Edwards writes, "This is a great part of the proper work and business of ministers. It properly belongs to them to endeavor to find out the truth and to exhibit it to the people of God, to search and see whether the way they are going on in be right or no; and if they see them to be going in a wrong way, 'tis their proper business to declare it to them." What is it like for an enslaved person to be forced, without compensation or liberty, to serve the will of a minister who proclaims the importance of finding the truth, doing right, and honoring God?
Consider Haiti. Gangs rule the country, engaged in a bitter turf war, causing catastrophic suffering. As one resident told The New York Times, "We are living a hellish existence, if you can call it existence."
There's Ukraine, where Putin, maddeningly, says it is Russian land. He has the gall to state he is liberating the country from neo-Nazis! The Associated Press found that Russia has forcibly deported thousands of Ukrainian children, tearing apart families in the name of 'mercy.'
In China, The New York Times reports,
The Communist Party has never apologized to the Chinese people for any of the atrocities they have suffered during its 73 years in power. Not after more than 20 million people starved to death during the disastrous Great Leap Forward, nor when the country was thrown into a decade of chaos and economic destruction by the Cultural Revolution. And not for the one-child policy that imposed many forced abortions and is now helping foment a demographic crisis with one of the fastest aging populations in the world.
As the reporter, Li Yuan summarizes, "It is a clear signal that the government will stick to its victorious messaging. It wants the public to accept its narrative, forget about what happened to them and move on."
Yuan identifies a predictable pattern. But Psalm 1:4 says,
The wicked are not like this;
instead, they are like chaff that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand up in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
Is that true? From the micro to the macro, where is justice? Yes, there's a hint of it here and there, but surely Psalm 1:4 is wrong. An honest look at life shows that the wicked are like trees planted by streams of water, even as they sweep the righteous away.
Justice in this life is inconsistent. Well, what about the next?
In his commentary on Psalm 1, Willem Vangemeren states, "The end of the wicked may not be clear while they are alive and busying themselves with wickedness, but from God's perspective, the wicked have no future."
What good is it for God's judgment to come later?
And anyway, doesn't believing in hell make us judgmental scolds? Is 'hell' just an oppressive form of mind control? Well, yes. I've seen it firsthand. In the hands of angry, controlling preachers, the doctrine of hell is used to beat people down. That's wrong.
But in Psalm 1, God's future judgment is intended, I think, to console those who are suffering. In a widely quoted passage from Exclusion and Embrace, the theologian Miroslav Volf addresses our uneasiness with God's judgment. He writes,
My thesis that the practice of nonviolence requires a belief in divine vengeance will be unpopular with many Christians, especially theologians in the West. To the person who is inclined to dismiss it, I suggest imagining that you are delivering a lecture in a war zone (which is where a paper that underlies this chapter was originally delivered). Among your listeners are people whose cities and villages have been first plundered, then burned and leveled to the ground, whose daughters and sisters have been raped, whose fathers and brothers have had their throats slit. The topic of the lecture: A Christian Attitude Toward Violence. The thesis: we should not retaliate since God is perfect non-coercive love. Soon you would discover that it takes the quiet of a suburban home for the birth of the thesis that human nonviolence corresponds to God's refusal to judge. In a scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die. And as one watches it die, one will do well to reflect about many other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind.
Too often, I read the Bible with stained-glass eyes. But Psalm 1 wrestles with the agonies and complications of human life.
Neither is Psalm 1 speaking in the language of scientific laws. Instead, it is giving wisdom to our hearts.
Unresolved injustice is a recipe for indigestion. Psalm 1 is a spiritual antacid.
If death gets the final word, then life is unfair. But if God gets the last word, he can balance the scales. And if God is going to establish justice, then how will you live today?
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