Whichever way you look back on 2011, one thing is obvious: it was a momentous year. It was a year of crises and opportunities where the protestor gained international attention and historical seats of power were shaken to the core. As I reminded myself of the major events of the past year, one thought has stood out – how the mighty have fallen.
Who would have ever predicted that a Tunisian fruit seller setting himself on fire as a protest against his government would have led to the toppling of dictators and rulers all round the Arab world? The US finally found their man and shot dead Osama bin Laden. The ongoing Euro crisis took its toll with the collapse of government after government and leader after leader. In our own country four ex-MPs and two Lords were jailed for parliamentary expenses fraud. The uproar over the phone hacking scandal resulted in the death of The News of the World along with the job losses of Andy Coulson, Rebekah Brooks, high ranking police officers in the Met and Baroness Buscombe, the chair of the Press Complaints Commission. Others were brought to account for their misdemeanours including Liam Fox, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and a handful of celebrities as usual. Even as the year drew to a close, we had the trial of Gary Dobson and David Norris for the murder of Stephen Lawrence eighteen years ago. The guilty verdict this week finally laid to rest what Lawrence’s family, the police, the press and many in this nation had been convinced of for years. Finally there was some justice.
Few people have displayed regret over demise of these individuals. And those that have, often have had something to lose from the circumstances. Instead we have witnessed many ordinary people in the Arab world willing to risk their lives and even die for the sake of change. The media has been saturated with scenes of euphoria in Egypt and Libya as their dictators have been toppled and also in the US when Osama bin Laden was killed.
There is something in the human psyche that longs for justice and freedom, especially when faced with the exact opposite. The book of Genesis talks about man being made in the image of God. Throughout the Bible God is described as a God of justice, love and peace. Despite the corruption of sin, most humans long for this too. There is a sense of satisfaction and release from the majority when those who have clearly abused positions of power and authority receive punishment and are stripped of their ill-gotten gains.
We know that the justice we seek in life often does not come quickly and sometimes horrendous suffering will be experienced in the meantime. We have to constantly live with this tension. There is an apparent paradox that comes with faith in God: God is ultimately in charge, but the world is a mess. Compare Psalm 1:6 and Proverbs 11:20-21 to Psalm 10, in particular verses 2, 5, 6, 10 and 11.
For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. (Psalm 1:6)
The LORD detests those whose hearts are perverse,
but he delights in those whose ways are blameless.
Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished,
but those who are righteous will go free. (Proverbs 11:20-21)
In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
who are caught in the schemes he devises.
His ways are always prosperous;
your laws are rejected by him;
he sneers at all his enemies.
He says to himself, “Nothing will ever shake me.”
He swears, “No one will ever do me harm.”
His victims are crushed, they collapse;
they fall under his strength.
He says to himself, “God will never notice;
he covers his face and never sees.” (Psalm 10:2,5,6,10,11)
Wrongdoing and evil will always be part of life as will dishonesty and lies. Christians need to learn to be content with the belief that for everything there will eventually be justice, whether it is on Earth or beyond. However there does seem to be a divine overarching justice that prevents evil from overtaking the world. Evil never overcomes Good in the long run. Throughout history evil powers and rulers have met their demise time and again. It appears to me that God is in control, making sure that the balance is always in favour of Good.
Many people in our country were glad to see the back of the News of the World and the humbling of the Murdoch dynasty. As the revelations about the way it conducted its business have continued to be exposed there seems to be a growing genuine desire to see the power of the British press to control government and destroy the lives of individuals significantly reduced. Deep down I feel that this is God’s justice being played out.
With the Leveson Inquiry into press freedom and all the debate that will go along with this, our own society has another chance to re-evaluate its values and find God’s whether it realises it or not. The job for Christians at these times is to pray that as our world shifts again, whatever the new order looks like, it will be better, not worse and that the failings of the past will not be repeated. As Jesus said, “This, then, is how you should pray: Our father in heaven… Your kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth is it is in heaven.”