Do unto others as you would have them do to you
Issues of law and justice have been at the forefront of discussions for a long time but have come to the fore particularly in the last five years. We all say we want justice, but I often wonder if the people calling for justice want justice, or if they want their version of justice. In other words, do they want just justice, or do they want justice if it favors them?
The other question is how do we get to justice. What is the right path to justice? What is justice based on? These questions may seem odd, but when we look at what is happening in the world justice becomes complicated. It is complicated but there are some principles that govern when justice is just that is sometimes unpleasing to the ones seeking justice.
In the United States, police officers have killed several black men, an extraordinarily high number. Some of these incidents have proven to be racially motivated – white policemen treating black men differently and even killing them because of their skin color. This is wrong and needs to be righted. How do we get there and preserve justice?
Black men have been racially profiled and singled out not based upon their actual behavior but their look and skin color. The white men who do this should be punished and removed from society. One of the things that may prevent justice is when incidences like this happen we automatically conclude that the white officer is guilty and try him because of his skin color and not whether he committed the offense. The black man does not want to be profiled because it is unjust, but may be profiling a white man who may be innocent but is presumed guilty based upon the actions of previous officers of his skin color.
We may feel like justice is done if he goes to jail, but is it just justice if he did not do it and is suffering because of his colleagues? Isn’t this what the black man is fighting against – judging a group based upon a profile. The black man in a hoodie may have never committed a crime and may in fact be a productive college student but he is unjustly targeted because others fitting the description have done something wrong. It is not right to judge either case based upon the sociological grouping, if justice is the same standard applied to every case.
White men have done some heinous things over the years, things that are simply unjust. They should have paid for it, but many escaped punishment and have gone to their graves. Where this has happened, I believe it should still be righted. I believe in reparations, restoration of historical injustices but the methodology is what is in question. Colonialism was a terrible evil and continues to be. It is not the exclusive domain of white people but much of historic colonialism has been at the hands of white men. Despite this, if we want just justice we must judge white men of today not based upon their skin color, but their current behavior and what we find against them evidentially. Judging solely based on skin color is illogical because no one chooses their skin color.
The recent calls for justice for women in what is being referred to as the #metoo movement is another case in point. Some historical injustices have been perpetrated on women. Women have been used as sex objects, forced into sexual acts for job opportunities, advancement or promotion. This is wrong and those who have done so should be punished. We have to be careful in how we accomplish this because the same issue with skin color can apply. Each person must be judged evidentially rather than emotionally or by social profile. A person cannot be guilty or innocent of sexual misconduct because we do not like their skin color or politics. If we conclude that someone is guilty not based upon evidence, then we are not executing justice, we are perpetuating the injustice we seek to end.
Many times I turn on the news to see calls for conviction not based upon evidence but based upon skin color, political or religious affiliation. Justice has to be just, or it is not justice. I look at what has happened with priests, particularly in the Catholic church, and what has come to light is really appalling. What if we look at these excesses and convict someone who is innocent, is that justice? It may satisfy our appetite for revenge on a group of people, but it can only be justice when the individual is guilty and there is evidence available. Some things appear obvious and we may want to convict based upon what appears to be obvious, but the reason there are trials is to prove or disprove the theory. Some people get away who are guilty, and some go to jail who are innocent. Should we then change the rules or should we fight harder to have the rules applied fairly and justly?
Justice is complicated because of human involvement but we cannot have justice without human involvement, so the fight should go on to ensure that justice is indeed just and fair. I would encourage my brothers and sisters everywhere to remember the words of Jesus: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and “with the same measure you use you will be measured”. These are wise words from the wisdom of God and should be heeded by all.
• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to [email protected]. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.