Thursday, March 12, 2009

Justice (?)

Bernie Madoff was jailed today. He'll be imprisoned the rest of his life.

The reporters I heard discussing it seemed disappointed that he pleaded guilty, as though they would rather have seen the man torn to shreds in a trial. What if he had been? What if he had even been sentenced to hard labor and then execution? What would have been accomplished? His victims' anger would have been somewhat more indulged. But what kind of recompense is that for his victims - momentary emotional gratification instead of financial reimbursement? Their life savings are still gone. They cannot now retire. They are looking at a lifetime sentence of their own: poverty. There are still charities that now cannot perform their services, because their money is gone.

Is this justice? Well, it's as near to it as human systems can provide, probably. God's justice, though, is orders of magnitude greater than this, and why? Because He is able to do what our justice cannot, and that is to make the victims whole again. He really does, in the end, set everything to rights. He restores everything to the way it ought to be, was created to be. He makes everything perfect.

What if Bernie Madoff's victims had everything made perfect again for them? What if they had all their money back, with all the appropriate interest and dividends? What if, besides that, their lives were made beautiful and perfect in every other way as well, so that they walked in peace, rejoiced in love, and gave incessant thanks to God? Then what would they want done with Bernie Madoff? Then it wouldn't matter nearly so much, would it? Because they would have their justice, true justice, in any case.

God's justice doesn't require punishment (in the sense of getting even) for anybody. In fact, in God's justice, the optimum outcome is, Bernie Madoff repents and everybody forgives him (not necessarily in that order!) and we all live happily together forever after. Christ died for many reasons (which I discussed in a 19-part series of posts last summer) but not among these reasons is that God had some emotional or legal need to retaliate. He doesn't, because as Bernie Madoff clearly shows us, wrong cannot really be corrected by punishing the malefactor; wrong is corrected by being replaced with right.


-C said...

Amen, sister.