February 18, 1997
Earlier this month, twelve people decided that a man once declared innocent of two murders was actually “liable for the wrongful deaths” of those same two people. They ordered him to pay several million dollars to compensate the families of the deceased.
How can two courts in the same country come to such diametrically opposite views and their findings still be legal? Justice seems straightforward; when people do something wrong, they should be lawfully held accountable. If they are innocent, they should not be accused but if they are, when they appear in court the facts of the case ought to acquit them. Is this unrealistic idealism? Or has our justice system lost its perspective?
In the O. J. Simpson trials, the facts were apparently debatable as they were presented in criminal court so, for that reason, the jury declared him innocent. Stronger evidence supported the same facts in civil court and a different jury decided he was guilty. However, under those charges, the only penalty involves taking his money rather than his freedom or his life.
O. J. seems to have no intention of letting anyone know how he feels about the conviction. He nonchalantly drove away from the courthouse, stopping for an ice cream on his way home as if he had only been shopping or out for a drive. Oddly enough, his behavior reveals more than he intended. Innocent people, especially those who are living in a country where there is freedom of speech, usually declare their innocence or at least display emotional outrage at having been convicted. This man showed little or no reaction.
However, even if he had, protests do not make a person innocent. A long time ago, two women came before a judge claiming the same baby as their own. One insisted that the other woman had suffocated her own child during the night when she accidently laid on it. Then she got up and switched it for the first woman’s living child. The second woman said no, and protested that the first woman was lying and the living child was her baby.
The judge, who happened to be King Solomon, made an unusual judgment to determine who was telling the truth. He ordered the child cut in half, with one portion given to each woman. Immediately the first woman pleaded, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”
The other woman replied, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!” At that, Solomon knew that the child belonged to the first woman.
The Bible story ends with this verse: “When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.”
Certainly justice requires wisdom. The Bible says true wisdom comes from God and with it, other characteristics will also be present. We see them in another passage where a ruler from another land speaks of King Solomon like this: “Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on His throne as king to rule for the LORD your God. Because of the love of your God for Israel and His desire to uphold them forever, He has made you king over them, to maintain justice and righteousness.”
Solomon was a just king because God loved the people of Israel, wanted to preserve them and chose him as a key player in that preservation. He made Solomon understand true justice. As this king wrote in one of his proverbs: “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.”
O. J.’s lack of “terror” indicates something is missing from the justice system in North America. Some say we need smarter prosecutors, more insightful jurors, or even clearer evidence, but Scripture points to what we really need: the wisdom and blessing of God.