There’s been another? Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, was shot at eight times as he ran from a white police officer. Several of those bullets found their mark.
Another black man gunned down by a white man. Another. Should these injustices begin to blur under the anonymity of “another” when for friends of mine each one comes as a punch in the gut, another reason to look over his shoulder, another night when she will watch the door in fear he may not return from his routine run?
Not just another, not just a number or a statistic. A man, a person with a family and people who loved him.
The officer has been charged with murder, and people are hoping for justice. But justice is so much bigger than this one instance, and in that larger sense justice seems so far away, so long in coming, so often absent from these stories, that I can’t help but watch and wait, breathing steadily in and out for fear that if I were to hold my breath I’d never draw another.
Yesterday morning I was reading Job, a difficult book rife with uneasy questions and no easy answers. Job wasn’t holding his breath either.
Why doesn’t the Almighty bring the wicked to judgment? Why must the godly wait for him in vain? The groans of the dying rise from the city,and the wounded cry for help,yet God ignores their moaning.Job 24:1,12
Job is describing the world as he sees it, the world as we see it today: broken, battered, sideways, astray from the true north for which our hearts hope and our souls are so attuned when we’re able to hear the whispers of the Spirit. Job is stating the obvious: This is not what the world is meant to be. God has never said otherwise, but Job’s lament is answered in Isaiah.
My mercy and justice are coming soon.My salvation is on the way.My strong arm will bring justice to the nations.All distant lands will look to meand wait in hope for my powerful arm.Isaiah 51:5
Beside these words I simply wrote Come quickly!
And then also thought But not too quickly.
Because in my case, I am glad that justice waited. I am glad that God’s powerful arm was raised for me in mercy rather than against me in justice when it sent Jesus Christ to the cross, raised him from the grave, and saved me. I am glad that mercy whispered at my door before justice came knocking, demanding its due.
Mercy and justice? Mercy then justice.
The mystery of mercy came first and remade the demands of justice completely, making my justice fall on the one who gave me mercy. Mercy is the bigger miracle.
Mercy triumphs over judgment.James 2:13
In Isaiah mercy and justice were on their way; salvation was close at hand. Today, they have come.
Behold, now is the favorable time. Behold, now is the day of salvation.2 Corinthians 6:2
They have come in the person of Jesus Christ, and they have come in us. We are the recipients of mercy, justice, and salvation, and we are the proliferators of the same.
And so I find my prayers over this situation—this one particularly and collectively—changing. My longing for justice is met with a prayer for mercy since I am seeing that one cannot come without the other. We cannot expect a systemic problem of injustice to cease simply due to better monitoring and more consistent prosecution. Even if statistics drop, hearts will remain unchanged.
We need hearts to turn one to the other. We need compassion to replace contempt. We need forgiveness to bloom in the place of fear. We need justice, and we will have it with mercy.
I am praying for the bigger miracle.