Posted tagged ‘Robin Hood’

Everybody Loves Robin Hood

August 15, 2008

He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord. (Prov. 17.15)

The key that unlocks this proverb is that little phrase-“both alike”-a phrase which calls our attention to a discrepancy. That is, a discrepancy in the way we think about injustice. Or rather, a discrepancy in the way we think about two different forms of injustice. One form of injustice we can spot easily; the other not so much. And yet before the eyes of holy God, they are “both alike an abomination.”

Everybody knows that a person “who condemns the righteous” deserves to be blamed. Many of our laws are designed in fact to protect the innocent from unjust accusation. Think of the Fifth Amendment provision, for example, that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Nobody flinches at the thought of punishing that form of injustice. Remember Nathan the Prophet, confronting King David over Bathsheba and Uriah? He told in a parable of a rich man who stole a poor man’s lamb (condemning the righteous), then he turned the parable on David himself-“You are the Man!” (2 Sam. 12.1-7). King David or not, we almost want to cheer!

But the other form of injustice is much harder to deal with-not least because the “one who justifies the wicked” can hide behind a mask of apparent mercy. Remember Joab the Commander, rebuking King David over Absalom? When the young man died in his rebellion against the King, David grieved. We understand his grief; Absalom was his son. But Joab saw the danger of loving “those who hate you,” making of high treason only a tragic fate (2 Sam. 19.1-8). We see the same sort of thing every day. The enabler who gives liquor to an alcoholic; a parent reluctant to discipline; a too-lenient judge; city leaders who refuse to enforce laws against illegal immigration; a denomination that blesses sexual perversion and calls it holy; churches that neglect discipline; politicians who refuse to call sin by it right name for fear of the polls. All the thousand ways in public and private life we justify the wicked and call it love.

True holiness looks with equal disfavor on those who assault the good and on those who wink at evil. But it is much easier to wink-for if you rise up to help the innocent, you’re a hero; but if you rise up to call sin by its right name, you’re intolerant, bigoted, homophobic, anti-choice, peevish, or something else equally obnoxious. Everybody loves Robin Hood. Whistleblowers get fired. It’s an unpleasant prospect, but God says it Himself-in an unholy world, somebody has to be Joab. You are loved.

Your Pastor,

Richard Wells