Friday, September 28, 2012

The danger or delight of delayed death

Ecclesiastes 8:11

Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.

"On the day you eat of it, you shall surely die," God told Adam and Eve regarding the fruit on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of that tree and did not die that day (at least in the way one would expect - lightning bolt, earth opening up, a poof of smoke where Adam used to be, etc...) 

We are prone to evil at the wicked impulse of our deceptive hearts.  We are sometimes restrained by the threat of retribution and the penalty of breaching our duties to the law.  However, when we see others cross the the forbidden line and not suffer immediate, swift, and symbiotic punishment, our hearts are more prone to explore this new evil opportunity now free of the fetters of fear of consequences.

Delayed justice does not create in us more evil, it exposes the extent to which we are already evil.  We like evil. Not just the fruits of evil, but the evil itself.

St. Augustine illuminates this when he states,

"Late one night -- having prolonged our games in the streets until then, as our bad habit was -- a group of young scoundrels, and I among them, went to shake and rob this tree. We carried off a huge load of pears, not to eat ourselves, but to dump out to the hogs, after barely tasting some of them ourselves. Doing this pleased us all the more because it was forbidden. Such was my heart, O God, such was my heart -- which thou didst pity even in that bottomless pit. Behold, now let my heart confess to thee what it was seeking there, when I was being gratuitously wanton, having no inducement to evil but the evil itself. It was foul, and I loved it. I loved my own undoing. I loved my error -- not that for which I erred but the error itself. A depraved soul, falling away from security in thee to destruction in itself, seeking nothing from the shameful deed but shame itself."

Praise God for His forebearance in not bringing to us justice in a manner as swift as we have earned and encouraged.  For in His patience, we have been granted mercy and opportunity of repentance in love at the hearing of His Gospel accomplished in Christ.

We are indeed (and also in deed) evil.  Our perverse minds are enticed to greater evil by the temptation to believe that delayed justice may imply no justice at all.  In God's grace, He has broke in and revealed His justice is earned, assured, looming, and coming soon to a theatre near you despite the skeptical dismissveness perpetuated by the previews.

In God's mercy justice does not occur immediately on the heels of every offense.  In man's pervasity, this delay often provokes even greater rebellion as the belief of retribution becomes dulled by repetative silence.  Instead of seeing God's worshipful patience, the lawbreaker perceives it to be apathetic indifference or flacid potence.  So we see revealed in delayed justice both the glory of God and the depravity of man.

1 comment:

  1. i think delayed punishment allows us to think that there will be no punishment, or that we'll have time to redeem ourselves in the meantime.

    in the republic, socrates says that if anyone really thinks that they're inherently good without having to be pressured with the promise of justice (or at least retribution), just allow that person to imagine what he would do if invisible. i loved the line you wrote, "Delayed justice does not create in us more evil, it exposes the extent to which we are already evil."

    but even the things we do in secret are always seen by a just god, and there will be justice at the end of it all.