The recent backlash in Ferguson, Missouri spawned by the Grand Jury’s refusal to indict White policeman Darren Wilson for killing African-American teenager Michael Brown, is a vivid, unpleasant but unsurprising reminder of the brittle social state of our nation. The conflicting eyewitness accounts of the shooting; the disparity of the situation by local and national news agencies; the opposing opinions regarding the evenhandedness of the juridical process; the different concepts of justice; and so on, combine to convince us that the most fundamental problem plaguing our land is (still) that of the racial divide. While there were many themes and subthemes accompanying the November 24, 2014 announcement, the pervasive reality is that US society is a hazardous tinderbox under perpetual verge of destructive implosion.
The purpose of this brief is not to support any of the positions already aired with regard to Ferguson. As a matter of fact, it is not intended to offer an evaluation of the Ferguson fiasco. Instead, it seeks to reinforce the need for the church to uphold the Christian worldview as that transcendent prism through which all events must be viewed and as that supreme hermeneutic by which they are to be analyzed and understood. From this perspective therefore, this article concerns itself with the question: what is a principal biblical truth that Ferguson constrains us to recall? That is to say, as we reflect on the entire spate of doleful occurrences of the 2014 Thanksgiving week, what is a major biblical truth that is thrust to the foreground of our awareness? A major lesson of Ferguson is that God is just.
The Scripture emphatically declares that He is a righteous God, Ps 7:9; Isa 45:21; Heb 11:4, who exercises righteous judgment, Dt 16:18; Ps 9:4. Indeed, he is the Judge of all the earth who must do what is right, Gen 18:25. Therefore all creation is to be glad for he will come to judge the earth in equity, Pss 96:10-13; 98:4-9.
The Scripture also teaches that justification, God’s once for all declaration of the sinner as righteous in his sight, is essentially an eschatological concept. It consists of God’s absolution of sin1 and its consummate expression will be realized at the grand assizes of the future judgment when all mankind will appear before God to give an account for everything done in the flesh, whether good or bad, and to receive from him his due reward, 2 Cor 5:10; cf. Mt 25:32. This, he will accomplish through Jesus Christ, Acts 10:42; 17:31; Rev 22:12, who will bring all secret thoughts and deeds to light; Rom 2:16; 1 Cor 4:5; Eccl 12:14; cf. Heb 4:13. At that time, the Lord God will make plain his consummate “distinction between the righteous and wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.” Mal 3:18.
However, God’s pronouncement of righteousness though eschatological in essence, “has already been effected by the death of Christ and may be received by faith here and now.” In other words, “[T]he future judgment has thus become essentially the present experience. God in Christ has acquitted the believer; therefore he is certain of deliverance from the wrath of God (Rom. 5:9), and he no longer stands under condemnation (Rom. 8:1).” 2
1 George Eldon Ladd, The Pattern of the New Testament Truth (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1968), 95
Therefore, in spite of their eschatological essence, righteousness and justice are to be practiced by all of God’s creatures in this evil generation- recall the Second Table of the Law, Ex 20:12-17- especially by his covenant people, both collectively, Mic 6:8; Amos 5:24; etc., and individually, 1 Pe 6:11; 2 Pe 2:22; etc. In other words, all rational creatures, because they have been made in the image of God, are required to treat their neighbors with respect and justice, and all Christians, especially, are to incorporate and apply these virtues in their day-to-day activities. None is with excuse for God’s (standard of) righteousness has been universally declared with indisputable clarity and irrefutable conviction, Rom 1:18-22.
In the meantime, how are Christians to respond in those circumstances which smack of a miscarriage of justice? We are to remember that the ruling institutions possess an authority that is not intrinsic but that is derived from the Lord, Jn 19:11; Rom 13:1. While this authority is delegated, it is nevertheless legitimate for these governments are God’s servants for our good, avengers charged with carrying out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer [to punish the evildoer and to praise those who do good, 1 Pe 2:14]. We are therefore to fear our rulers and to submit ourselves to them, “not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience.” Those who resist these God-appointed authorities resist God and in turn, will receive his judgment, Rom 13:2-5; 1 Pe 2:13. As Christians, we are to endure and to rejoice in unjust suffering for such a response will lead to the joy we will receive when his glory is revealed in Christ, 1 Pe 4:12-16. Further, God has called us to unjust suffering, “For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” 1 Pe 2:20-21. This is a very serious matter that requires continual and solemn self-examination, 4:17-18
These are the hard, uncompromising truths of biblical Christianity. Nevertheless, these are the salutary principles that are to govern our responses in such trying situations as Ferguson. If at times we are frustrated and weary in doing good; if at times we despair of the apparent or real deferment of justice; if at times injustice has tempted us into thinking that God’s righteousness will not prevail, then we are to remember the Psalmist, who in a rather similar predicament, takes refuge in the house of the Lord where, in the participation of corporate worship, the glory of God and his truth were reinforced to him:
Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.
All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.
For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning.
If I had said, "I will speak thus," I would have betrayed the generation of your children.
But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.
Ps 73:12-17 [emphasis added].
Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?