Vindicate God

Vindicate God February 27, 2018

When I was a boy, I was entirely unable to make crafts. To hand me a perforated piece of paper was to waste that piece of paper as no perforation was so good that I could not tear the paper in the wrong place. Give me a popsicle stick for craft time and I would snap it. I really wanted to build a treasure chest at Vacation Bible School, but my attempt looked nothing like the picture on the cover of the craft.

Occasionally a teacher would decide that nobody could be as bad at crafts as I was. She would tell me to be more careful. This made self-righteous little me mad. I was doing my best. Couldn’t she see? I did not want to waste the craft, get glue on the table, or end up with more sparkly sprinkles on me than on the crown. Not so tragically, little me never got what I wished:

Vindication.

When I am wronged, my immediate reaction is to wish for vindication, but then I remember the mercy I have received and the pity I need in my life. There is nothing wrong with wanting God to be vindicated: goodness should be thought good, truth should be known to be true, and beauty perceived as beautiful. So far as we know, God and the holy angels are the only persons who can cry only for justice and not for mercy, yet the angels do not ask for justice for themselves. Why? If God is given justice, then all the just will flourish.

They do not wish for personal vindication, but for the good to be vindicated.

I join those who cry for mercy and this is incompatible with living a life centered on  personal vindication. The lust for personal vindication is a sin rarely considered, because we should wish for the right to prevail. We never wish error to triumph, but the fine distinction that breeds error  in our hearts is when we end up caring less about justice than in appearing to be just. Plato had it right: the good person will love justice, even if his love of justice is perceived to be unjust. There is such an easy line between loving goodness, truth, and beauty and loving being perceived as good, true, and beautiful.

The continuous desire to be right and make sure everyone knows we are right is a disease social media spreads like a plague. “If I just clarify one more time,” I think, “if I apply one more sub-argument, then I will be seen to be right.” This is not the same as carrying on a long and spirited discussion. In fact, this is a sin nobody can judge as existing in anyone but themselves. Externally, the man seeking truth will look like the man seeking vindication, but the outcome in the soul is utterly different. If we seek vindication, we love reputation and not truth, but only we will know, God help us to know when we have made this error.

I cannot accuse anyone of this by external behavior, just see it in myself when it is there.

Of course, vindication of self frequently becomes vindictive. We wish mercy, but have no mercy. This is not good.

Augustine confesses:

And Thou knowest how far Thou hast already changed me, who first healedst me of the lust of vindicating myself, that so Thou mightest forgive all the rest of my iniquities, and heal all my infirmities, and redeem life from corruption, and crown me with mercy and pity, and satisfy my desire with good things: who didst curb my pride with Thy fear, and tame my neck to Thy yoke. And now I bear it and it is light unto me, because so hast Thou promised, and hast made it; and verily so it was, and I knew it not, when I feared to take it.

God knows all and God forgives. Perhaps my goal should be bringing life where there is death, mercy where harshness, mercy and pity where possible. It wasn’t hard to give up the desire to be vindicated about Vacation Bible School crafts, harder to give up any desire to be vindicated.  Having been forgiven much, I wish only to extend forgiveness. May God make us vehicles of healing, redemption, mercy, pity, and may we wish good things for all God’s children.


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