The death of Trayvon Martin is a polarizing issue in many sectors of society all around the globe and has produced a variety of responses from ambivalence to violence. The acquittal of George Zimmerman of Martin’s murder has caused even more attention on the difficulty of meting out justice in a racially charged world. Many persons, especially blacks, have consistently contended that there has been no justice for Trayvon in this case while others have responded that there has been no justice for Zimmerman – until now. This begs the questions, “What is justice?” and “Can justice be given to opposing sides and still be considered justice?” Is this dual justice equal in its effect, and is it fair?
For the answers to these questions, and to gain some perspective on the issue of justice, I turn to the second case of biblical crime and justice. In Genesis 4:1-16 the first murder is recorded, and it is a disturbing case for Cain took the life of his own brother. Verse 10 states that the blood of Abel cried out to the Lord from the ground – an expression of a desire for justice, that what is wrong somehow be made right. Yet upon being discovered and found guilty by the all-present, all-knowing God, Cain also cried out for justice. What then is just?
Though some might be inclined to say that Cain got off scot-free, in what can only be said to be God’s wisdom, God meted to Cain a life sentence of guilt and fear – sentencing him to the prison of his own fear and subsequent difficult life (verse 12). Thus Abel received justice for his death according to the will of God. However, for Cain even this was too much to bear. Again, just as the life of Abel required justice, Cain now required justice from God for his own life, though he was the one who was obviously guilty … and God was merciful, yet at the same time just.
I continue in prayer for God’s mercy for both families and all affected persons. For, in no way trivializing Trayvon’s death, I must say that I cannot say who is or was guilty of what on the day that George Zimmerman took the life of Trayvon Martin. I was not there, and I do not know what was in either of their minds or hearts. God knows and knows what justice demands. I do know that one person is dead and another is free. We do not and cannot understand all God’s ways (Isaiah 55:9). But let it be declared as in chapters 54 and 55 of the book of Isaiah, though you may be like Israel – seemingly poor and forsaken, God will yet avenge and restore those who call upon and trust in Him, while at the same time offering mercy to the repentant sinner and oppressor. He who is just, and the justifier of sinners, will judge both now and in the end.
Finally, we must not overlook the fact that this same God has established a criminal and civil justice system upon the earth for our good (Romans 13:3-4), though we must immediately note that in the hands of sinful human beings, it is subject to error and mismanagement. Those who are disappointed should respond accordingly, but this does not mean abandoning the earthly system that God has established. Neither should we return evil for evil and violence for violence, only to reap upon ourselves what we have sown. Rather, we must take each day – and unfortunately, every tragic opportunity – to serve as instruments of God’s peace, working to establish justice within the system, even as we in love live as God’s justice among each other (Luke 6:27-38).