I am often amazed at how inconsistent and even idiotic we have become when applying justice and mercy. A flurry of recent news stories brings particular attention to this problem. A well behaved six year old Cub Scout from Delaware, Zachary Christie, was recently suspended from his elementary school and sentenced to 45 days of reform school with older delinquent boys. This was for bringing a camping tool (fork spoon and knife) to school in order to eat his lunch. Public pressure has since helped overturn this decision and Zachary is now back in school. Another story from upstate New York reveals that 17 year old Eagle Scout, Matthew Whalen, was recently suspended for 20 days because he carried a pen knife in a survival kit locked in the trunk of his car. In addition to how this is currently impacting his schooling, he has feared that this might negatively impact his application to West Point. The school board has reviewed and maintained the suspension, while authorities from West Point have indicated this would have no negative impact on his application there. In discussing these examples of ZERO TOLERANCE policies, I have heard commentators justify these actions on the basis of the massacres at Columbine and even Virginia Tech. Having personally fallen victim to unreasonable judgments in the aftermath of 04-16-07, I will take this opportunity today to discuss ZERO TOLERANCE!
If there is one thing that is frequently promoted and encouraged on the college campus, it is that we must be tolerant! Authorities often encourage or even demand 😉 that every belief or lifestyle of behavior be tolerated. This usually begins by tolerating all kinds of ideas, even radical ones that defy reality. It then extends to tolerating all kinds of language, even what most would consider vulgar. Further extension of this attitude of tolerance means that you must accept any person’s expression of their own sexuality. This impacts dress standards for sure, and even goes further toward tolerating all kinds of increasingly open sexual behavior—through pictures, plays, movies, music and other public expressions of what is often even perverted sexual behavior. There comes a point when some tragedy happens or perhaps someone is even killed and then there is usually a pulling back from wherever the tolerance doctrine has gone. Often, the pendulum swings back in the other direction and you have policies like the ZERO TOLERANCE idea that attempts to enforce a specific standard, regardless of circumstances. What is wrong with this picture? The limitations of a one page article keep me from detailing all of my thoughts here. The broader issue relates to judgment as well as mercy.
We want life to be fair. We want justice, yet we want it according to our own standards. We want it both ways. We’d like to be able to do whatever we feel like doing and then have others who do things we don’t like face consequences. That is the double standard of the human nature, which is created in God’s Image, yet marred through the corruption of sin. The fact is that no matter how good any of us strive to be, we all fall short of God’s standards and are subject to HIS justice. We recognize that none of us is perfect, yet this does not mean that we give up standards or give in to whatever we think or feel, as many mistakenly do. When people do make mistakes or even fall into some obvious sin, what then is our response? We often are lacking in mercy and we have certainly been lacking in justice.
Our problems are many and the solution is neither greater tolerance nor is it zero tolerance. We must seek to promote justice wherever we can and then leave the injustices that we cannot correct to the One Who will one day straighten out all things. Quite simply, we must be balanced. We must promote justice and love mercy. Most importantly, we must walk humbly with GOD and what HE has revealed in HIS guidebook. Consider the verse that is often called, “The Micah Mandate”:
“He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?”
Because of GOD’s own personal sacrifice through the shed blood of JESUS CHRIST, HE can and does extend mercy. In fact, for those who believe on HIM, they even have access to His Grace! The end of those who do not place their faith in JESUS CHRIST is indeed ZERO TOLERANCE!!