Posted by: sailingspirit | July 7, 2012

Let the Record Show; Better Justice by Playing Ball

In some societies, something is considered to be truth after some quorum amount of agreement occurs.  For example, in order for a reported transgression to be considered a true crime, there might have to be 2 witnesses who can attest to it.  Or physical evidence found that “agrees” or corroborates with the story.  On the one hand this is good because it prevents someone from being unfairly punished by another’s lie, but in the case where insufficient corroboration occurs, does truth cease to exist?  Can truth be prevented from existing?  Is truth created by agreement, or merely facilitated by it?

Perhaps the easiest example is a time when a person said something or acted in a manner that seemed unfair to you, and when you spoke up for yourself, they did not agree there was any transgression.  Do you typically look for someone to take your side?  Call a few friends, perhaps, to get their opinion?  How much agreement do you need to feel the matter is settled?  Or, alternatively, whose agreement do you need to have peace about it?

And which record, exactly, do we want the truth recorded on?  Whose/which record holds the utmost position to you?

As I take a moment to think about it, it seems like “the record” is closely tied to justice, so the record that we care most about is the one that brings us justice (probably the soonest).  Whether it be retroactive or protective, we are inherently desirous of justice;  I’ve written quite a bit lately on societal justice compared to God’s justice, and even how surprising it is that most of us don’t take advantage of God’s present justice in our lives when we need it.

But today I’m thinking about a slightly different aspect of justice: the role it plays in relationships and how seeking it affects those relationships.  As I posed above, sometimes things can be addressed within the direct relationship and sometimes we feel the need to bring in a jury of our peers.  Which method is appropriate when, and how does changing approaches impact the relationship?  There’s an unspoken message communicated in a lot of those instances, perhaps best illustrated this way:

Scenario A:  You’re disputing a coupon’s validity at the checkout counter, when this is said, “I’m not satisfied with the way you’re handling this, so I’m going to find someone else to handle it instead.”  O-kay….not exactly going to endear the two of you to best friend status but calling in a 3rd party, such as a manager, doesn’t seem like such a big deal.  In fact, you’ve seen it so many times, it’s rather expected as a fair way to handle things.

Scenario B:  Now you’re in a heated dispute with your spouse, and it is spoken, “I’m not satisfied with the way you’re handling this, so I’m going to find someone else to handle it instead.”  That message takes on a whole different level of meaning, doesn’t it?  It’s like saying, “You’re not good enough, I’d prefer someone else.”  Ouch!  It’s like a small breach of loyalty.

The difference between these two scenarios is your closeness to the other person and, stemming from that, your expectation of trust.  In the grocery example, you don’t really have a relationship with the checkout clerk so potential damage is minimal.  But with your life partner, you have A LOT to lose.  So it appears our closest and dearest relationships have the greatest potential for damage.  Perhaps for the relationships closest to our intimate selves, an alternative way of resolving disputes would be a good idea.

Have you ever had someone say to you, “Regardless of what anyone else says, YOU know the truth, so you can rest in the fact that you know the truth”?  I was told that when I was a kid.  But sometimes, if not most times, I didn’t find any comfort in that.  Looking back, I think it felt like candy coating on injustice because no one was standing up for me in a way that I felt like I was truly vindicated.  So, as stated above, I felt vulnerable to being treated the same way again and again as long as they got away with it.  All parents and children are thoroughly indoctrinated with the idea that the quickest way to curb a behavioral problem is to experience the dissuading consequence as soon after the infraction as possible, to make a direct experiential link.  Facilitate learning, as it were.  So if no one agreed with me and punished my perpetrator, I felt like knowing the truth was kinda useless.  It didn’t seem to go on any record.  Does anybody REALLY believe that knowing truth in isolation is sufficient?  That agreement is unnecessary?

Somewhat surprisingly, the Bible indicates God doesn’t think so.  In numerous places we find verses such as “one can put 1,000 to flight but two can put 10,000 to flight” and “no two can walk together unless they are agreed.”  We are told to seek agreement with another when we pray, for “whenever two agree on a thing it shall be done for them.”  To assemble ourselves as believers and utilize the gifts of the Holy Spirit, so we can support each other and build each other up.  That’s a form of agreement.  God also tells us that in order to effectively wield His good power in the world we must get in agreement with Him, even to the point of speaking it out loud so the power of that agreement can be released.  We are taught to renew our minds according to (in agreement with) His word.  And the whole point of the scriptures for us is Covenant, promises, agreements.  I think His opinion on the matter is pretty clear.

So, how does this bring about justice?  When God delivered the Hebrews out of Egyptian slavery and made them His own nation of people, He gave them a justice code to operate by.  It was thorough, too–how large and what kind of penalty for each type of infraction, who were to serve as judges at each level, and even how many witnesses were required to corroborate a claim.  And swift was sometimes a gross understatement–one time the earth immediately opened up and swallowed the guilty!  (Yikes!  That oughta leave an impression!)  Later, though, in the New Covenant, God teaches us to “turn the other cheek,” “give him your shirt too,” “forgive seventy times seven times,” to ‘expect to be treated as bad or worse than Jesus himself,’ and to ‘let God contend with those who contend with us,’ because ‘revenge belongs to Him.’  Did the All-Knowing, Everlasting God get so old as to go senile?  Did He turn schizophrenic?  Ha!  No.  But then why change systems?  Our experience tells us the Grace system works less well than the Law system, so we’re inclined to think we ought to use both rather than switch from the former to the latter.  That’s incorrect, incomplete thinking, though, and unfortunately we work against ourselves by doing it.  If you’re only looking at the level of the threads, you cannot comprehend the pattern of the whole fabric.

God didn’t change one system for another, He simply enlarged the scale of operations–in truth, restoring it to where it had been previously before the temporary, illustrative scale-down.  God changed who got to be judge and in which situations they were permitted to have jurisdiction.  God is Judge, we are all equals in his sight, and those who agreed to live by the Old Covenant Law (the Jews) are held to the terms of that contract while those who agreed to live by the New Covenant Grace (Christ-followers) are held to those terms.  People mutually within either of those camps are permitted to help hold each other accountable, within reasonable limits, and people outside those camps are God’s jurisdiction entirely.  (They’re welcome to join either Covenant if they wish but are not held to those standards until they “sign on the dotted line,” so to speak.)

For Christ-followers there’s much freedom to be had in this system: freedom from jealousy, haughtiness, and fighting with each other because we are made equal; to enjoy the most fair, objective, incorruptible Judge; certainty that all injustices are seen by Him and recorded so whether today or later they will be rectified; freedom from accusation because a) Satan can’t accuse us of breaking laws we’re not contracted to by Grace, and b) Jesus kicked Satan out of his spot at God’s ear to speak for us not against us; even the promise that on the day Satan himself is judged in the Most High’s Court, we will be permitted to testify against him.  (And Satan’s court date is coming up very, very soon.)  And as I’ve written in recent posts, there is much justice available to us right now in our earthly lives that we can enjoy well before checking in at Heaven’s Welcome Desk.

So according to the title of this post, “Let the Record Show,” when you feel like you’re the only one who knows the truth, you’re not because God knows it, too.  And He notes it on His record.  Is that good enough to you?  Does that make you feel any more assured than knowing the truth for yourself?  If you feel like God’s record isn’t enough, then whose record is?  And why?  As stated before, your answer may depend on whether you feel God knowing about it means He’ll act on your behalf, in a way that’s actually helpful to you, or you’ll say, “I’m not satisfied with the way you’re handling this, so I’m going to find someone else to handle it instead.”  Hmmmm…..

It seems to me this is precisely where something very small but crucial is missing from most of our understandings on the subject.  This may be why “results may vary.”  We feel agreement is important, God understands how important it is for us to have agreement, so believing that He agrees with us when someone does us wrong is good, very good.  But the stretches of time it takes to get justice and our exasperated temptations to give up on Him and resort to other measures clearly indicates that agreement alone isn’t entirely sufficient.  There has to be more.

God probably does start dealing with it right away, convicting the person from within, we just can’t see it until they’re overcome by it and finally repentant.  But if both of us are under the same covenant, when is it okay to hold our peers accountable and when is it just damaging to the relationship?  Said another way, how do you know when it’s patient, obedient faith letting God handle it and when you’re just being a doormat?  So far, each of the “helpful” statements considered fail to ease my suffering and just leave me feeling powerless.

*Gasp!*  That’s it!!  Empowerment!  Empowerment!  Read those agreement scripture references again…do you see it?  Each of the verses God gives us regarding agreement is for the purpose of empowering us somehow!  Empowered to get bigger results, or guaranteed results, or to be validated and strengthened in company with other believers.  God does not want us to give our power away–the whole Bible is about how mankind gave their power away and how God is helping them get it back.  But it’s not empowerment over other people, per se, as in winning the fight with superior debate skills.  It’s empowered to a guaranteed win by choosing who we agree with, and fighting as if we are the only ones in the fight.  I think an illustration would help here.

English: Right handed softball batter Dansk: H...

THINK BASEBALL, NOT BOXING.  (“There’s no crying in baseball!”)

I think perhaps Christians have been misunderstanding the scriptures when it comes to arguments and justice.  We either take the aggressive route (“put on the armor of God”) and fight like a boxer trying to overpower our opponent, or the passive route of running away and asking God to fight in our place.  I’m no longer convinced this is what God had in mind.  Perhaps the right answer is neither; what actually agrees with all the scriptures is more of a baseball model than a boxing model.  An opponent is throwing things at us, which we have the power to either reject or keep–bat it away from us or let it pass through.  We decide which pitches are beneficial to keep and which work against us.  We win NOT by overpowering the pitcher, but by skillfully making the right choices and reacting accordingly.  We win or lose right where we stand.  No matter if no one else is watching or a whole jury box of our peers is nearby, they can’t make the decisions for us because it’s something we have to do on our own.  They can only offer supportive encouragement and some tips.  We don’t run away from the plate and ask someone else to bat for us, rather we step up and stand our ground.  (Asking God to be our pinch hitter is allowed but reserved for extraordinary circumstances.)  Neither do we go punch the pitcher in the eye and wrestle him to the ground to convince him to stop throwing things at us.  Jesus used different words, but told us that’s just how the game is played.

According to this model, we get everything we want: agreement, notation on the record, personal empowerment, God’s backing just in case, AND an immediate sense of justice without damage to the relationship.  An argument becomes a win-win right where we stand by accepting and speaking the truth we do agree with, while simultaneously rejecting and sending away the statements we don’t agree with.  When done appropriately, it does not damage our relationship with the other person because we are not in any way getting aggressive with them, judging them, or throwing things back at them.  We’re simply choosing “yes” or “no” for ourselves.  With study of the Bible and a relationship with God we can know what He says about us, so that we have something to make comparisons against and agree with.  And with practice we can develop our skills to the point where no matter what is pitched at us, we can avoid getting injured by the wild ones (He said “turn the other cheek” but He never said not to duck), and leisurely walk away from the confrontation to our rightful reward.  By keeping enough skillful people on your team you can also make the score go up and up without anyone having to run at all.  Now that’s a sweat-less victory!

This method reinforces what Paul taught us in the New Covenant.  Unlike the Jews under the Old Covenant, Christians are never told to take up swords and burn cities to the ground, because we are empowered with the Holy Spirit and a new and better method.  We’re told it’s rather pointless to fight other people because the evil spirits will just find some other puppet to use anyway.  But that doesn’t mean there won’t be fights in life, so interpreting all this stuff as fancy Christian symbolism for what we do when alone in our prayer time is leaving us hanging.  A well-played inning, in the heat of the moment, nips the evil provocateurs in the bud, and may even simultaneously change the person’s thinking because you’re bringing Truth into the discussion.  Thus, it may increase their appreciation for you and/or God when they reflect on it later, turning your enemies into your teammates.  Thus anyone can gain acknowledgement and respect with this method of dispute resolution because it’s non-competitive.  You don’t have to be stronger, smarter, richer, aggressive or nasty.  It’s a strategy for every believer, every-day people and everyday situations.  Sure, some of the best players may be asked to participate in the Olympic-sized spiritual battles on behalf of others but that doesn’t prevent you from getting true-blue results in your own life.

So we see that we can get agreement on truth anytime, that speaking both truth and our agreement with it gives us power to get justice faster, and we can become champions of the easy victory without beating others down or getting prideful.  There’s less injury, less bitterness, no crying, we can even come out of arguments with stronger relationships instead of weaker ones.  God’s not senile or slow–He’s freakin’ brilliant!  I no longer need to avoid conflict or go to bed wishing I had used better comebacks, I’ll just play ball.

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