Justice, His WayPosted September 12th, 2011
by Janet Perez Eckles
Three separate years shook the world of our family: the first with tragedy, the second with tears, and the third with triumph.
We all shared the tragedy that was September 11, 2001. My 19 year-old son, Joe sat across the kitchen table.
“I can’t imagine,” he said. “You’re sitting at your desk on the top floor of the Twin Towers, sipping your coffee, and suddenly you look out the window and you see an airplane heading toward you. You know it’s the end.”
Joe was still trying to digest the horror of that tragic event—so sudden, so devastating, so senseless.
Our Own 9/11
Then it was September 7, 2002. As the first anniversary of America’s tragedy approached, our family was to experience its own personal 9/11.
We received a phone call telling us that our Joe had been wounded. I gasped in disbelief. Who could have wanted to hurt him? Joe was popular—captain of the high school football team, a leader, handsome, and witty. But when he and another driver pulled into a parking lot, Joe didn’t know the other man was armed with a knife. Doctors did all they could to save him, but the twenty-three stab wounds took Joe’s life. Suddenly, we were shoved into the victim category along with other families in anguish over loved ones.
Jesus brought a measure of peace during the following year, but then another event touched our lives with pain. The trial began for the man who had taken our Joe’s life. It was held in the same city—in the same court building, the same courtroom—where the Casey Anthony case recently unfolded.
At the trial of our son’s attacker, my husband, family, and friends stood as the foreman of the jury began to read the verdict. With hearts pounding, we waited for justice. The room grew silent. We held our breath. And the verdict was read: Not guilty on all counts.
The verdict seared our minds. The disbelief devastated us. The injustice nearly destroyed us. Outrage seemed logical.
In the deepest crevices of our souls, we long for justice. Where it comes from doesn’t really matter. We hope that in some odd way it will lessen the pain, bring closure, or bring a hint of satisfaction in the midst of heartache.
Freedom from Forgiveness
The truth is that justice does none of that. Not when the tragic action has already turned one’s world upside down. Actual freedom only comes in the form of forgiveness.
And most don’t find it. That is because outrage blocks the way to freedom and peace—God’s way. Forgive the person who killed that precious little girl? Forgive the person who took our son’s life? Not humanly possible. Forgiveness of such crimes goes against logic and every natural instinct. But in failing to forgive, we put ourselves into a prison of bitterness, anger, and resentment.
Jury members can condemn, judges can sentence, but only God can bring about true justice. As I write in my book, Simply Salsa, “Justice may be blind, but through God’s grace, injustice helps us see the beauty of forgiveness.”
Peace filled our hearts when we chose to forgive the man who killed our son. It was not because we were such “good Christians” or wanted to gain righteous status. We forgave because we wanted the freedom that comes from complete obedience to God’s Word. We realized how feeble it would be to seek vengeance, punishment, human justice. In the end, God has the last word.
“For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution…” (Isaiah 34:8, NIV).
God alone is perfectly just. He alone sees all the deeds of human beings. He alone offers the grace we need to do what we cannot do on our own: truly to forgive. And in the midst of misery, God opens the window to let in the promise of His justice—timely and perfect. It is only justice from God that breathes, into the musty room of grief, the breath of peace.