Letter from Mike Clark

Dear Friends,

At the risk of rushing in where angels fear to tread I thought I’d share a few reflections on the nature of justice in light of the “Women’s March 4 Justice” and the Christian Porter situation. My aim is theological not political, and I apologise in advance for any mistakes I might make in dealing with these complex issues.

It’s undeniable that many women in our society have experienced dreadful things at the hands of men and that there’s something seriously wrong with a culture which attempts to cover such things up. The anger we’ve witnessed on our streets and t.v. screens is real and reasonable. And there are clearly things that need to change going forwards which require more than just talk.  If God in his providence chooses to use recent events to uncover previously hidden situations of abuse and violence, then to Him be the glory for that. For as Paul says in Ephesians 5:11: “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them”.  

And yet the Bible also warns of the very real dangers of speaking or acting in anger – whether as individuals or corporately as a group – as I considered in my most recent Bulletin letter (cf. Proverbs 14:29; 16:32; and 19:11). For as James 1:20 insists, “the anger of mankind – even the most righteous of anger – does not produce the righteousness of God”. 

In Deuteronomy 19:15, we read that:

“A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.”

The reasoning behind this is clear. People tell lies…at times horrible lies. People make scurrilous and malicious accusations for all kinds of reasons. People can and do cling to a warped and distorted perspective of events. Which is why anyone found guilty of bearing false witness in Ancient Israel was sentenced to the same punishment as would have been faced by the person they had wrongly accused (Deut 19:17-19). Because truth matters. Slander is serious. And without such protection, a person’s reputation and life can all too easily be destroyed in an instant. Which brings us to the Attorney General…

I have no idea whether Mr Porter is guilty of what he has been accused of or not. Nor do you. Nor does anyone. But without in any way minimising the seriousness of the accusations, the fact that a person of previously excellent reputation has been brought down by a trial-by-media without ever having been found guilty of anything is a disgrace which should be of concern to all fair-minded Australians. The Bible has a word for it: injustice. And the fact that the victim on this occasion is a wealthy, white, middle-aged, conservative man doesn’t make it any better. 

For centuries now, one of the glories of our western Judeo-Christian system of justice has been the fact that it is “blind” , i.e. that it strives to apply justice without regard to an individual’s wealth, power, or status. The roots of this ideal go right back to Leviticus 19:5, which states:

“You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial towards the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbour.”

For the truth is, when it comes to justice, God is just as against showing partiality towards the poor as He is showing it towards the rich, towards women as towards men! Because identity is irrelevant. And there’s no such thing as justice for the poor, or for any other group you might care to mention. There’s only justice… and injustice. And our feelings shouldn’t come into it.

Will you please join with me in:

praying for courage, comfort and justice for victims of abuse and for Mr Porter;
asking God to grant wisdom and righteousness to our political, judicial and community leaders;
praising God for his decision to appoint Jesus as our judge, in large part because of his “love of righteousness and hatred of wickedness” (see Hebrews 1:9).

 

In His grace,
Mike Clark