Last night after work I watched the end of a police-suspense film [I'll leave the movie nameless as I talk about a big 'spoiler' for the movie below]. One reason I enjoy such crime dramas is because they prompt the viewer to think through issues of justice.
Near the end of the movie I watched last night, it was revealed that- previous to the story-line depicted in the movie- the chief protagonist of the film had planted evidence to make sure that a suspect who had tortured and killed a young child was found guilty for his crimes. The policeman was absolutely certain that the suspect was a child molester/murderer, but could not find enough forensic evidence to make sure that a jury would convict the suspect, so he took some blood from the child's corpse and put it in the suspect's home.
Crimes against children like the one just mentioned have (of course) always been disturbing to me, but now that I have a child of my own, I can barely stand to hear about them. Even though the crime mentioned above was fictional, I almost cried when thinking about the suffering of the boy, which the policeman described in graphic detail in order to make his friend understand why he was willing to plant the evidence.
After the movie I began to think of what I would do if I were in the policeman's shoes. At first, his actions seemed justified to me; if he was sure
that the suspect was guilty of so heinous a crime, why not do everything possible to make sure that the criminal paid for his crime?
The question is: is planting evidence ever justified?
The answer is: NO.
The fact that we may sometimes tend to think "YES" points to the innate sense of justice within each of our hearts; this, I would argue, is part of the "image of God" within us (Gen 1:26), which has been radically corrupted by sin, but not entirely destroyed. We all know, deep down, that the guilty should pay for their crimes
, and we may tend to think, on occasion, that those who are charged with seeing that they pay- the police and prosecutors- are justified in bending or breaking the rules to see that criminals are taken off the streets. 'If rules are not occasionally broken,' we may think, 'then no one will pay for the crime.'
But this line of thinking fails to take into account the justice of God
. By faith, we know that God, the just judge of all the earth, will leave no crime unpunished. If a person escapes punishment in this life, then he or she will yet face the judgment of God. If a person is wrongfully punished in this life, then he or she will be vindicated before God.
In fact, there is a sense in which no one faces true justice before he or she faces God. For what is the just payment for a crime like the one mentioned above: child molestation and murder? What human court can administer a punishment that will fulfill justice in such a case? Will a lifetime in jail or a quick death truly make payment for such a crime? Only God has the wisdom and power to properly judge and punish lawbreakers; human justice, though absolutely necessary, is but a pale reflection of God's ultimate justice.
It is only when those who are responsible for justice in our society are firmly convinced of God's justice that they have the freedom to follow the rules in pursuing justice. A policeman never needs to plant evidence, and thus take a risk (however unlikely he deems it) of punishing an innocent suspect, because he will be sure that there is no chance that the guilty will escape punishment
Labels: Christian worldview