Unless you live under a rock, it is likely that you have heard that O J Simpson has been granted parole. As is to be expected, reactions to this have varied. Two key figures from his former murder trial have made comment about this, and I think their comments say a lot about us as a society in general. Fred Goldman, the father of a person murdered in the case where O J Simpson was found not guilty had this to say: “The killer will walk free, and do whatever he wants.” I can not begin to fathom Mr. Goldman’s pain and I will not pretend to. According to the law however, Mr. Simpson is not guilty. Chris Darden, a prosecutor on the trial said: “We have yet to extract from him the punishment that he deserves … justice ain’t killing two people, butchering two people and getting away with it.” The New York Post (which by the way is not terribly credible all in all) ran an opinion piece as well. What can these three things teach us? Let’s start with Mr. Goldman’s statement.
It seems obvious that Mr. Goldman believes, as many do, that Mr. Simpson was the person who killed his son. The pain of that must be unbearable. The reality is that Simpson is not criminally liable for killing his son. He is not guilty. I don’t know how you move on from that. I don’t know how you stop being so angry and bitter towards the person you believed has caused such pain to you. I just know that you have to. I am not sure that many of us are good at moving past our pain. We hold grudges, remain bitter, and continue to blame others for the injustice of our pain. Hopefully none of us have experienced this type of pain, but many of us have gone through ugly divorces (is there really any other kind?), broken relationships, families that do not value us, etc. We have not moved past the pain of those things if we can not be genuinely happy for the good fortune of those who have harmed us. We are certainly not loving our enemies and praying for those who have persecuted us. We can learn that we are very much like Mr. Goldman in finding it so difficult to move past our pain and fully move forward into the life that is ahead of us. This is not to say that Mr. Goldman, or any of us, are horrible people, or to say that moving past our pain is easy, it is to say that it is necessary if we are to go forward.
Chris Darden is a prosecutor that was a part of a losing case. Not only that, but he was a part of one of the most famous losing cases. He claims that justice was not served here. Let’s look at justice for a moment. Justice-noun “Just behavior or treatment”. Simpson was tried, by a jury of his peers, and found not guilty. That is justice in this nation. It may not be justice that we like, it may not be justice that we agree with, and it certainly is not God’s justice that we are all subject to, but it is the justice of this nation. A prosecutor should know better. Many people felt that Mr. Simpson was guilty. A civil trial, which is different that a criminal trial, found that Mr. Simpson was guilty. The reality is that justice was still served however. We confuse, I think, justice with the justice that we want. If it is not the justice that we want, we claim it was not justice. This is a mistake. The problem is not that justice wasn’t served, it is that our view of justice has been distorted to the point that it is hyper-individualistic instead of what the word actually means.
Finally we have the Washington Post comments editorial. They bring up the trial for murder in which Mr. Simpson was not convicted. They bring up his spousal abuse, which they say there is ample evidence of, that he was not convicted of either. Yes, he did admit to spousal abuse, yes it is sickening, no it should not be considered in a parole hearing that has nothing to do with that. They claim the parole board has a duty to protect us, so all this should be taken into consideration. The reality is that we, as a society, really don’t want that, or at the very least we shouldn’t want that. We should not want punishment to be meted out for things that we have not been convicted of. The whole of this opinion, and the opinions of many it seems, is that Mr. Simpson should be punished for things that he is not legally liable for. We have a thirst for vengeance it seems, and in order to sate it, we need to call for punishment beyond what is due for a crime just because we think so. How often does that carry over into our lives? How often do we desire vengeance for things that we are not certain have been done? How often do we attempt to punish those in our lives for what we think they have said or done? Silent treatment anyone? Passive aggressive language and behavior? We all do it, but it is illustrated so well in the Washington Post op-ed.
Let’s learn something here. Let’s learn that the punishment for the crime that Mr. Simpson was convicted of has been fulfilled according to the sentence. Let’s learn that he was a model prisoner. Let’s learn that we should pray for the success of the remainder of his life, delight that justice has been served, and be happy that mercy was shown in the form of parole. Let’s be humble and not suppose that we know better than the courts in assigning guilt and punishment. Let’s walk with God content in the knowledge that He is indeed sovereign and that His justice will one day prevail for us all. In short, let’s learn from this and all the publicity surrounding it. In this situation, the words of the prophet Micah come to mind. He teaches us that we are to act justly. In this case, there was justice, even if it is not the justice that we may have wanted. He teaches us to love mercy. We can do this by being thankful that mercy has been shown and that a man has another chance to do right in the life that remains for him. He teaches us to walk humbly with our God. We can do this by accepting that ultimately God’s justice prevails in all things, and His justice is perfect. O J Simpson has given us, as a society, and as Christians, a mirror to examine our behavior and thoughts toward the parole. We would be remiss not to use it.