There are a lot of different voices out there telling us how to deal with the problem of injustice. Some say we must do away with aggressors through force. Others say we must extricate ourselves from unjust systems. Some say we must disarm unjust powers, others call for a radical redistribution of wealth.
It is a nagging question, and one that would not leave me alone. I knew I was searching for something, I could see a light ahead, but I was still in a tunnel. Then the answer came when I wasn't looking for it at all, like an explosion of light. I do not know why it seemed so significant, since my discovery was a reaffirmation of what I already knew, what had always been there. And I do not know exactly where to go with it, or how to describe it without resorting to overused "Christianese" cliches.
But there I was, reading an old interview with N.T. Wright, a favorite theologian of mine. His book, The New Testament and the People of God, radically revolutionized the way I read the Bible. Being a scholar of 1st century Jewish thought and practice, he shed a lot of light on our understanding of what justification meant for Israel and for Paul. It wasn't some personal thing between God and the individual, rather it had to do with the definition of who God's people were and how God's promises to Abraham were fulfilled in Jesus. I had been discussing these things with members of my family who had recently "discovered" Wright, and we have also begun reading and discussing the book of Galatians together. And so I "happened" upon this interview, and while reading through it two things popped out to me in a fresh way. One was that, while discussing "justification", Wright mentioned that through Jesus' death on the cross, God definitively dealt with the problem of justice in history. The second came later, as I was growing a bit bored (it was a long interview) and Wright was answering questions about 9/11, etc. He said we needed to bring Bin Laden to justice, but that it couldn't be done with B17 bombers. BOOM! There it was. The two fused in my brain as if in a nuclear reaction. The cross is the only way to bring Bin Laden (or Hitler, or whatever evil thing may be out there) to justice.
I laughed, I cried, I fell down and worshiped. I danced. I opened my doors and windows and blasted the Hallelujah chorus through my poor, abused little speakers. If only the world could see this. If only I knew how to communicate this.
After last night's foot washing at church, followed by Holy Eucharist, I knelt in the pew and continued to wonder. These things that we do and reenact communicate that Jesus is among us, and that we, the Church, are to be his hands and feet in the world. Jesus has nail holes in his hands and feet, the permanent marks of the cross. Here is true justice, God making things right through the sacrifice of the spotless lamb. It isn't something that is simply pronounced, or some scale of right and wrong that is made to balance, but rather something that flows. From the cross, onto us, among us, through us, into the world. The things we do as we are transformed by the Spirit of justice will vary from church to church and from person to person. But the cross will always be there as our defining point, something to measure our deeds against, the ways we think we are bringing about justice. And we will be known as the scarred ones.