|Matthew 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do
good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute
The killing of Ennis William Cosby is still fresh in our minds as is also the magnanimous gesture of his parents, Camille and Bill Cosby, and a similar gesture of Reginald and Margaret Green. (Reginald and Margaret Green are the couple whose seven-year-old son, Nicholas, was killed when Italian bandits opened fire on their car three years ago in Italy. The Green's donated Nicholas' organs to other children awaiting transplants. The Greens never sought revenge, only justice. And last week when the man accused of slaying their son was found not guilty in an Italian court, the Green's accepted the verdict.) Courtland Milloy has penned a wonderful piece in the Sunday Post concerning these expressions, and I encourage you to read it. I'll not attempt to restate his amazement here.
What is significant, is the phenomenon of victims being given a forum from which to vent their pain. Certainly the media are only doing their jobs of seeking information with which to inform the public, and the information is sought while it is still fresh in the minds of the aggrieved. The aggrieved are approached before they have collected their thoughts and often make statements that are out of character and are later regretted. As they express their pain, we sympathize with them and hope that justice will be swift. And when a suspect is apprehended, we await a finding of guilt and administration of the most severe penalty possible. We all call it justice. But it is really vengeance.
God has reserved vengeance for Himself: (Romans 12:19-21) "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord . Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." Adherence to Scripture is difficult here, even when not applied to self; even when God has promised Himself as our deliverer and protector.
The expression of another's pain and desire for vengeance makes vengeful desires more acceptable to us all, no matter what Scripture says. From the shoes of the aggrieved we see crime burgeoning around us and we determine the strong and decisive steps we would take, were they really our shoes. Vengeance becomes natural; even to the point of dismissing justice--this is certainly the reason God reserves vengeance for Himself.
The Cosbys and the Greens have refused to play God-- not even god. In both cases they have left justice to those authorized to administer justice. And it is wise to let the authorities administer justice. Justice first assumes that the correct culprit has been apprehended. Secondly, it assumes that the penalty is appropriate for the crime committed. It is so easy for us to err on both counts: in our zeal to mete out justice, we release our fury upon the most prominent suspect; and if our law enforcement and judicial systems find enough evidence to go forward with an indictment, we move swiftly to consideration of the penalty we think most appropriate to assuage the pain rather than the penalty most appropriate for the crime.
The Cosbys and the Greens have given us a different prototype-- a better pattern to follow. Both couples have forsaken vengeance and carried themselves in a manner worthy of emulation in times of trial. Our prayers go with them as they go forward with their lives. By their example, we pray that others will move on with theirs.