Treyvon, a Legal System, and the Justice To Come

Dave Miller encouraged readers at SBC Voices to avoid going Nancy Grace in the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict when giving an opinion.

Greg Horton only weighed in because his answer to a question was too long. (R)

Al Mohler reminds readers a tragedy still remains.

Marty Duren chides Christians for accepting confirmation bias.

Rick Davis notes the demise of the Fourth Estate.

I could go on.

But, since I began with Dave I will continue with Dave. He is right. Too many opinions skewed by a priori commitments make the point that hermeneutics goes all the way down. Careful how you state your case.

What really caught my attention was something Dave tweeted just after the Zimmerman verdict was handed down.

I read his exchange with Aaron Weaver and believe that Dave was attempting to target the way many view justice as having only been done when the outcome is what I want. Good point.

However, I did not read the conversation until today and have been mulling Dave’s Tweet since Saturday evening. I even threw in with Aaron when asking Dave for clarification.


Never one to pick a cyber fight with a fellow who wears a lime green suit and looks good doing so, I could not help but ruminate over Dave’s Tweet in search of another interpretation.

Rather than attempt to get polemical with Dave, I began wondering about the way Christian language works when it comes to justice. Taken at face value, without the benefit of Dave’s clarification, the comment seemed to affirm that we may equate a legal process with justice. Such a move would require a pristine legal system in order to produce justice. We do not have such a system. We may then conclude that we do not have a system of justice but rather, I suggest, a legal system. It may be a good legal system as far as they go. It may be considered better than most. But, that does not make it just.

Scott Jones points out one way our legal system has been compromised by looking at the very notion of self defense embedded in the U.S. legal system, thanks to John Locke, compared to the Grace-ing going on by the pundits. It depends on one’s perspective as to whether Martin or Zimmerman needed to defend himself. To hear Robert Zimmerman tell it, George’s brother, in an interview with Piers Morgan, in a most bizarre logic, Martin killed himself, was responsible for his own death.

Who needs Nancy with logic like that?

I need to think about it more but I am wondering how Christians in America have been influenced by the reference to our legal system as a system of justice. Our legal system outlines the way we will live together and when a person violates that code he or she is brought before the legal system to be tried and, if convicted, sentenced. But, a sentence does not equate to justice.

A life sentence for murder, even a death sentence, does not equal justice. Those are matters determined in a punishment phase of a legal proceeding. Justice in the sense of reconciliation and restoration, the sort that fits the vision of the Sacred Text, would mean the restoration of the lost life and reconciliation of relationships that brought about the tragedy.

When we describe a jury verdict, and if there be any penalty meted out, as justice is done, we err. Even more, when we work to make our understanding of justification understandable by likening it to our legal system, we make the life and work of Jesus less than it is. When Paul describes the to come subjection of all things under Christ, there seems to me a necessity for a more robust vision of justice than we often think.

Bart Barber gave me some things to think about along these lines.

Talk of the to come, apocalyptic, ordinarily takes the form of coming judgment and punishment. What if we told the story of justice to come complete with the reconciliation and restoration of all things? Might we bridge the damage done by equating legal with justice?

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About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

4 comments on “Treyvon, a Legal System, and the Justice To Come

  1. martyduren says:

    There are a lot of good thoughts here, Todd, but I have a major disagreement with a single point. Nobody, including Miller, looks good in a lime green suit. ;^)

    I do like your point on justice vs the American processing of it. That is thought provoking.

    1. Thanks for commenting Marty.

      Sometimes I wonder if the way we read our understanding of legal back into the Scriptures notion of justice doesn’t obliterate context and intent. I also wonder if this isn’t the beef some have with N.T. Wright. We take the law court image in the prophets and impose our notion of legal and arrive at the shape of justice.

      Not a few postmodern/poststructuralist think justice is the one un-deconstructible event. But, even raising that bugaboo reference will potentially kill any further engagement. After all we may only appropriate that which solidifies our prior to understanding commitments.

      Now about that lime green suit. I suppose we could make an argument that it needs to be deconstructed or there is really no justice to come. 😉

    2. Dave Miller says:

      I do not look good in lime green. I look GREAT!

      1. Uh, that’s what I meant.

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