Grace vs. Justice

I came across the video of the Cleveland shooting by accident on Sunday night. Not knowing what I was watching, when the senseless murder took place on my smartphone I wasn’t quite sure how to process what I had just viewed. Everything in me hurt. Then when I began reading more into what happened my “hurt” turned into a deep empathy for the victim’s family and a growing disdain for the man who committed the crime. I am certain my feelings are nothing exclusive to only me. Fast forward 48 hours and the murderer was discovered and rather than being arrested, face a trial, and serve a sentence, he took his own life. Another life loss but reactions of mourning were scarce. Rejoicing was found. Voices chanting “coward” were heard. Yet, very few mourned another soul lost in the chaos.

Wednesday morning comes and another life was lost. Aaron Hernandez, former NFL star and convicted murderer, was found dead of an apparent suicide. As the news spread some talked about a wasted NFL career, others offered words dripping with notes of “good riddance!” on them. Once again, few were mourning. Few reflected on a life that was wasted perhaps because Mr. Hernandez never understood what matters most in life.  While the Cleveland shooter and Aaron Hernandez probably never met, they crossed paths on our national radar and taught us something that we already know but refuse to address. We are a graceless people who cry for the justice of others while praying for grace and grace alone for ourselves.

Grace makes no sense to our world because grace is communicated with the accent of heaven by those whose hearts are attuned to heaven. Grace doesn’t make sense. When justice is warranted, Christ’s church should be advocating grace. I know I know. They murdered people(s). Demonstrating grace doesn’t mean a removal of an earthly penalty for an earthy grievance. Demonstrating grace means seeking a heavenly answer to an earthly problem. The solution is not that these murderers would hopefully find themselves in eternity a part from Christ. That is never the solution. No, we should mourn their passing because there has been no account given of repentance and salvation.

This is difficult. Not because these men or many like them have wronged us personally. No, it is difficult because it reveals our level of self-righteousness. We demand forgiveness for ourselves but the very thing we demand liberally we pour out frugally. We just do not understand grace. IF we did we would remember that our grievance against a Holy God is greater than any offense humanity can do to us yet, God offered grace when justice was warranted. We must advocate grace because it by grace that we have life. We have hope because we have grace. There is never a man or woman who is “beyond the reach of grace”. No one has fallen from grace more than the rest of us. Instead, Christ has extended endless grace and calls us to do the same. We must always err on the side of grace (even though within that you could argue there is rarely error in displaying grace).

I wonder had todays news read “Hernandez repents and receives Christ” would skeptics  raise their voices with frustrations and objections. Perhaps some would argue that he does not deserve it. What if had the Cleveland shooter turned himself in and with tears in his eyes repented for giving in to anger and taking the life of the elderly man. Would we forgive? Would we run to him with grace the way the father ran to his returning prodigal son? I would like to think I would but I know one family unit that would.


Thank you God for grace. May we be men and women who turn our world upside down because of the grace we show.


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