Sunday, February 1, 2015

Justice: Impossible

You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous   - Deuteronomy 16:19

The last few weeks have been a roller coaster of drama here in Mibu. Much of the ups and downs revolve around the discovery that one of the teachers here, also a husband and father, has raped at least 5 young women, one of them at knifepoint.

It's been such a sad thing to learn of, and the church is greatly hurt by this man's actions. And since putting him out of the church the community has had a hard time deciding what to do with him. This is where the drama… and great overthrowing of justice has happened.

More on that in a minute. But first off, we see circumstances like this as key times of discipleship. Oftentimes, it's these difficult, emotional times of tough decisions that training the eyes to Jesus is most effective, and most needed. This time was no different.

As for the drama, there was some hesitation regarding whether or not to have the police come and arrest the man for what he had done. It would most likely result in 15-20 years in prison for him. In fact, as of January 1 of this year, there is a death penalty put in place for the type of crime he committed. However, since the crimes were committed in 2014 he was facing 15-20 years. The community eventually agreed that he need to go to prison. They were under the impression that they would be able to determine the length of the sentence, after which time was served they would banish him to live in the bush, away from the rest of the Mibu people.

Once the police were summoned, and had arrested him, things went south. Culturally here, loyalty to one's vast family line comes before justice. If this man went to jail, there would likely be payback from his family line, which extends well beyond just the "Mibu" community here. The police officer fed on this and after being sure to strike fear into the community about the conditions of prison and the length of his imprisonment, and also the unlikelihood that he would live to see the light of day, he managed to pocket a 500 Kina bribe to free the offender right there on the spot for the people to deal with in their own way… ie. make him live somewhere in the bush, by himself.

To make matters worse, the community began to blame one of the church leaders for influencing the decision to get the police involved in the first place! Even though the decision to involve the police was a result of community discussion, they turned and thrashed one of the few here who gives himself in selfless service for the good of the community.

We couldn't believe what had happened… They'd bribed to free a rapist and were turning the whole thing on a selfless servant!

Needless to say this was so discouraging to many of us here. Taking this as an obvious need for some further teaching and exhortation Chris and I spent some time saturday morning meeting with those who have been influential in the current circumstances. We had been working with folks through the weeks, but it hadn't been enough. So now, rather than scattered discussions with various leaders in small groupings, it seems a more up front approach is what was needed. We met and talked about the irony and sadness of the situation, and also some passages of scripture to clear up some points about the place of the church and of the government in dealing with crimes like this, since confusion here seemed to be partly behind all that had happened.

The response was what we were hoping, and we're encouraged to see that it seems people were really challenged to think differently about this kind of thing. While the decision and actions taken are irreversible at this point and this rapist is now basically free to hurt again, we hope that folks were convicted of the need to seek and love justice and that we can keep working on this area where their traditional values conflict with a biblical worldview. It's not that their loyalty to family is a bad thing. It's that there are times where you have to temper that value with another, higher value… the need to ensure room for justice . Justice is too often put down, even completely reversed (where the evil is uplifted and the good is made to be the criminal) because of these family loyalties gone too far. But then even more, their willingness to turn it all on one who has only given himself for the good of the community was especially concerning. This is a point we're going to have to work on over time here in Mibu, and we would appreciate your prayers to that end.

As far as the victims this is a good opportunity for the believing community here to consciously provide the support that is needed so that they can heal and move past the wrong that was done to them. Shannon and Angie have been talking with some of the women here to be sure an effort is made to reach out and care for these girls.

At the end of the day we know that while justice may have been overlooked for the moment by sinful men, a time is coming when full justice will be doled out to deal with all sin. We also know that Jesus offers, justly, to cleanse us of our sins by taking their penalty on himself, which he did on the cross. Those of us who trust him are brought into a place of great restoration and hope despite these evils that still abound in our earthly lives. We hope that the genuine living out of this truth can begin to instill a desire for and active seeking of justice as a 'trait' of the body of Christ here in Mibu. Again, please be in prayer for this as the church continues to grow and mature.

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