An Observation on Justice in the Aftermath of Atrocities

When one really thinks about the things that ordinary, average citizens went along with during the Nazi period of Germany, we begin to realize that we are lucky that we were not German at that point in time. We know we would most likely have fared no more ethically than those accused and convicted. And, yet, even knowing our own guilt, avoided only chance, we understand we must forge ahead and and prosecute these people to the full extent of the law, even to death.

When one really thinks about the things that ordinary, average citizens went along with during the Nazi period of Germany, we begin to realize that we are lucky that we were not German at that point in time. We know we would most likely have fared no more ethically than those accused and convicted. And, yet, even knowing our own guilt, escaped only by chance, we understand we must forge ahead and prosecute these people to the full extent of the law, even to death.

That’s the rub. How can one man convict, imprison and even execute another man knowing that, if in the exact same situation, he is just as guilty as the other.

We know, innately, however that the crime, committed by ourselves or others, must be punished regardless of circumstances. There is no mercy for those who, by frailty of mind, succumbed to terrible acts. We do not recognize the defense that, having swapped places, would we have done what the accused had done? We know we mostly likely would have but we understand that can have no bearing on the judgement delivered.

We judge ourselves in judging others; but escape the punishment delivered to the convicted.

Therefore, consider again the justice of God whose perfection can not abide imperfection as we can not abide atrocity.

Consider again the mercy given to us in Jesus Christ which forgives all atrocities.

And consider again what we know to be right in dealing with human atrocities – in the light of what we think we know to be right understanding our own sin.

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