Sunday, May 30, 2010

Vigilante Justice

One of the things that I've encountered over the past six months working as a substitute is something that I call vigilante justice in the classroom. Often, in elementary schools that lack discipline and clearly defined law and order, certain students (especially boys, but sometimes girls too) take justice into their own hands. When another student acts improperly or does something that he or she is not allowed to do, there is often a student who becomes enraged over the breech, and when the teacher does not correct the action, he or she becomes indignant and often commits an act of violence in an attempt to correct the wrong. I've tried to point out to the boy or girl that their reaction to the first thing that was wrong is much, much worse, like 10x more unacceptable, than what the other person did. I also remind them that it is the teacher and the school principals who are in charge and who will take care of students who disobey. It is not the other student's role to take justice into their own hands.

As much as I find myself surprised and somewhat shocked when I see this happening among kids, that feeling is nothing compared to the realization of how much I still suffer from a similar type of spiritual vigilante-ism. Under the cloak of self-righteous indignation, I have a strong desire to see people, myself included, do the right thing. When an apparent wrong surfaces, my knee-jerk, viseral reaction is to want to get them to stop or see the errors of their ways. While I would never physically bully or abuse someone in order to get justice, I can be persistently vocal. Just like a bounty hunter in the days of the frontier, when vigilantes roamed freely, I find myself looking for a gunfight. And if the offender won't come to the shoot-out, I can adjust very easily by becoming a verbal sharpshooter.

Of course, all of this is sin and difficult to diagnose and overcome.

Two places in scripture speak to this issue. Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 3. Below are some passages upon which I will be meditating and committing to memory:

Rom. 12:3 "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you"

Rom. 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

1 Cor. 3:10 "By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

16 Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple."

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