Human and divine justice
A Christian Science perspective: How one imprisoned young man overcame crime.
In law school, I was interested in how biblical ideals have found their way into the laws many of us live by today. While there are obvious ones like the commandment “Thou shalt not steal” (Exodus 20:15), there are certainly others.
In tort law, for instance, if you have a dog that bites someone, you could be in trouble. But if you know your dog has a propensity to bite and has attacked people in the past, you could be in even bigger trouble! In the chapter following the Ten Commandments, Exodus includes a law holding the owner of an ox to a higher level of responsibility if the owner knew the ox had harmed others in the past (see Exodus 21:28, 29). Here it seems as if human law today is patterned after what people in the Bible felt God was telling them about divine law.
This reminded me of a statement in a book called “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” by Mary Baker Eddy: “Let Truth uncover and destroy error in God’s own way, and let human justice pattern the divine” (p. 542). The Scriptures inform us that God is supremely good, merciful, and just and that divine justice is the highest law there is. The action of divine justice in human consciousness and experience destroys sin and frees the individual to express his or her true nature as God’s spiritual likeness. In order to bring human justice in line with divine laws, we ourselves must exemplify God’s justice and mercy in how we think and live, and in how we view and treat others. I’ve seen this proved in my own life.
Once I received a letter from a distraught father across the country who found my name listed in The Christian Science Journal as a practitioner of Christian Science healing. He explained that his son had been arrested and imprisoned in the community where I lived. He was asking if I would visit his son since his son had spent a little time in a Christian Science Sunday School. I did go to the prison and asked to see this young man. It was a pretty grim experience. They brought him to me shackled in chains. They were apparently concerned about his mental stability and the potential for violence. I didn’t feel the visit went well. And the young man didn’t seem interested in any further contact. But I decided to make one more effort the next week.
Through prayer I tried to gain a stronger sense of God’s justice – His divine provision of goodness for all His creation, and the irresistible action of His law to remove all that would hide that goodness. This visit resulted in a glimmer of hope. Yes, a crime had been committed, and yes, there was the need for an enormous amount of transformation in this young man’s life. But as soon as I began to see him spiritually as already existing in and reflecting God, divine Life – I saw hints of something positively responsive in him.
We began weekly meetings. One day as I was sitting on the cement floor of his cell and he was laying on the thin pad across from me, I closed my eyes and began repeating aloud some words from the writings of Mrs. Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science. I realized he was following by picking up on some of those words. This is the first I recall him speaking in all the time we’d had together. Real progress began to take place. In fact, his advancement was so rapid and unusual that the authorities at the prison asked to visit with me about it. We agreed that he was exceeding all expectations. He became a model inmate. And he was released in about a year – far earlier than anticipated. He quickly found productive employment and a fresh start in life.
One of the significant lessons I learned from this experience was that the doors of opportunity can be opened much more widely if we begin by letting ourselves cherish good, God. By praying to acknowledge our true nature and the true nature of others – the nature of God’s perfect creation – we begin to see human justice more clearly reflect the divine. Christ Jesus said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) – and he proved by healing disease and reforming the sinner that perfection is the actual reality of man. That’s true justice!
When we acknowledge that our true spiritual being, and that of others, is innocent, we can begin living that innocence more consistently, and we can help lift others into the understanding of their own innocence. When we humbly recognize that God’s reign of divine justice must prevail – and we trust this truth – we begin to see it governing people’s lives more fully, as it did that young man’s. This action of God’s justice is a divine law we can trust.