The Punishment of Injustice

Please welcome Tim Fall to the blog today. He is a regular reader of A Sista’s Journey and I’m sure you will see the value of his contribution to the justice conversation by reading his post below:

The Punishment of Injustice

“I hear you don’t like Mexicans.” He looked Hispanic and he looked angry.

“What?” I stood at my high school locker late that afternoon, the halls empty but for me and my accuser.

“I heard you said you don’t like Mexicans.”

He leaned in, taller, stronger, threatening. It didn’t take much to be taller and stronger than me. I was a shrimpy freshman. It didn’t take much to threaten me either. I was also a wimpy freshman.

“I didn’t say that.” All I wanted was to convince this guy not to hit me. It looked like he was going to anyway. “If I said something wrong, I’m sorry.”

He still looked ready to punch me. I didn’t like getting punched. It invariably hurt and I invariably cried. Crying in high school in the 70s was not a way to lose your reputation as a wimp. Probably still isn’t.

“What are you doing?” The voice came from behind me, up over my head. It was an older student, a junior, another person who looked Hispanic. He wasn’t talking to me.

“This guy said he doesn’t like Mexicans.”

“I didn’t say that.” My voice went up a couple octaves. That’s how wimpy freshmen sound when they’re scared. But I kept going. “I told him I was sorry if I said something wrong, but I didn’t say that.”

I kept thinking how much it was going to hurt when they started punching me.

The junior said, “Leave him alone. He apologized.”

“But he …”

“It’s over. Leave him alone.”

My accuser left, then the older kid walked on. I closed my locker and walked down the empty hallway to the bike racks and went home.

Unjust Punishment

I avoided being beaten up for something I didn’t do. Not everyone does.

In Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin there’s a scene where one of the young slaves, a thirteen year old boy, is accused of mishandling a horse. His twelve year old owner is incensed and becomes violent when the young slave tries to explain:

Henrique struck him across the face with his riding-whip, and, seizing one of his arms, forced him on to his knees, and beat him till he was out of breath.

“There, you impudent dog! Now will you learn not to answer back when I speak to you? Take the horse back, and clean him properly.  I’ll teach you your place!”

Tom, older and trusted by his own master, explains that the horse was acting up on its own. The daughter of Tom’s owner, the girl Eva, hears and sees it all.

“How could you be so cruel and wicked to poor Dodo?” said Eva.

“Cruel,—wicked!” said the boy, with unaffected surprise.  “What do you mean, dear Eva?”

“But you beat him,—and he didn’t deserve it.”

“O, well, it may go for some time when he does, and don’t get it.  A few cuts never come amiss with Dodo,—he’s a regular spirit, I can tell you; but I won’t  beat him again before you, if it troubles you.”

Being punished for something you didn’t do and considering it fair because “there might be something you do wrong that could go unpunished later” for doesn’t really square the balance sheet.

Justice, Justice Shalt Thou Pursue

I put a screen saver on a computer I use at work: “Justice, justice shalt thou pursue.” It’s from Deuteronomy 16:20, part of a sermon Moses delivered to the Israelites on how to conduct themselves in the new land. Here’s the context:

Appoint judges and officials for each of your tribes in every town the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall judge the people fairly. Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent. Follow justice and justice alone … . (Deuteronomy 16:18-20.)

It’s not a bad set of instructions for me to keep in mind whenever I take the judicial bench.

It’s also not bad for us to keep in mind as we pursue God’s justice. After all, Isaiah had strong words for those who thought participating in religious rituals like fasting was all it took to follow God:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58:6-7.)

When Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, she was doing what she could to break yokes – literal yokes that slaves wore. Her work moved a nation.

When that high school junior stood behind me and told my accuser, “It’s over. Leave him alone,” he set me free from the fear I had of being beaten up for something I didn’t do. His worked moved an accuser to walk away.

This is God’s work. As Jesus announced:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19.)

Now we get to join him in his work.

There are more captives to be set free.

Tim FallTim is a California native who changed his major three times, colleges four times, and took six years to get a Bachelor’s degree in a subject he’s never been called on to use professionally. Married for over 26 years with two kids (one in college, one graduated – woohoo!) his family is constant evidence of God’s abundant blessings in his life. He and his wife live in Northern California. He blogs at timfall.wordpress.com, and is on Twitter and Facebook too.

8 thoughts on “The Punishment of Injustice

  1. How do you fix the injustices caused by the church? Especially one that does/did not come under any accountability and makes their own rules by the visions of the pastor? One that refuses you an audience with those who have slandered and maligned you. Those who will not let you do as the Bible says and “if you have ought against someone… go quickly” so that reconciliation may take place.

    What or whom are these people so afraid of that they have to act in this manner of “shun and hide”? That church that directs their members to tell their family that “we are not family anymore, I am married now” and then breaks up that family and causes hurt and suffering to the point of weeping for years on end. Wondering what really was the “thing” that I did to deserve such dishonor.

    Just like the story… we were accused for things that we did not do, but, then were told we had to fix whatever “it” is before we can see our daughter again. So, we will never see her again because we cannot fix “it” for “it” never took place.

    Where does one find any justice for what the church does to people? Or, the better question is… CAN anyone find justice for what the church has done?

    Wish I could set my daughter free. Please pray that God will intervene on our and her behalf. Thanks.

    1. Dear Muttering Heart, While today’s guest post does not directly address the injustices of the church, clearly there are many. I have not turned away from discussing some of the injustices on the church here on the blog. I feel compelled to do that because I love the church and I do believe that God has a high calling for the responsibility that we have in the community that we call “the church.” It appears that you have suffered a horrible injustice at the hands of the church and for that I am sorry. I do hope that you have loved ones praying for you, your family and your daughter; and that you find the right people in your local community that can help work through this situation and come to a place of healing and reconciliation on all levels. Blessings, Natasha

      1. Yes. We do have a group of good Christian friends who are very supportive and pray for us and God has been good in our time of need. We just never thought that this would happen. Never.

        Thank you for your kind words.

    2. The first thing I have for you MH are continued prayers for you and your daughter and the whole family. This heartache must be unbearable at times.

      On what to do with those people who refuse to engage in reconciliation, I think it bears noting that Jesus said to treat them as if they are not members of God’s family. The responsibility is on them to respond under the guidance of the Spirit. I hope they don’t kick against him too long, for your sake and for theirs.

  2. Interesting post for me to read today, Tim, as I am currently going through Francis Beckwith’s “Politics for Christians.”

    1. i hope you’ll write about Beckwith’s book on your blog, Aimee. It’s good to get insights on how to live in the kingdom while being members of a civil society.

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