Justice and grace

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When Samereh Alinejad slapped her son’s killer on the face, forgave him and removed the noose around his neck on the gallows in a northern Iran city last week, peace overpowered the hatred that had gripped her heart for seven years.

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On the day of execution, she chided the crowd for pressuring her to forgive the murderer, Balal, who had made her life “like poison” since he took the life of her son Abdollah Hosseinzadeh in a senseless, juvenile quarrel.

She had resisted public pressure to pardon Balal and accept the blood money offered in lieu of execution. But what she could not ignore for long, she said, was her dead son’s appearance in her dream asking her not to retaliate.

The “slap was the space between revenge and forgiveness,” she was quoted as saying in news reports.

“Now that I’ve forgiven him, I feel relieved,” said the parent who had waived her right under Iran’s Islamic law of retribution to kick away the chair on which her child’s murderer stood.

That dramatic event on April 15, the second day of this year’s Holy Week, has called attention to the almost humanly impossible act of forgiveness that unfolded before the eyes of the crowd at a public square in Nowshahr city, as reported to the rest of the world before Easter.

Outside the realm of traditional religion, the human heart, if open to divine grace, shows it is capable of beating with the same compassion that prompted the bleeding Christ on the cross more than 2000 years ago to ask his heavenly Father to pardon his executioners.

Samereh Alinejad’s story is made more extraordinary by the fact that Iran, along with Iraq, holds the world record for the second highest number of public executions of criminals, next only to China.

Hers is not the first case of a mother granting mercy to the killer of her son.

In 2005, 18-year old black British Anthony Walker was hacked to death with an ice axe not far from his Huyton, Merseyside home in the UK in a random, racially motivated killing.

Anthony’s mother told the BBC of the agony she felt over his violent death, before she found in her mother’s heart divine grace to forgive his murderers.

She described to the Daily Mail years later how forgiving her boy’s murderers helped her family release feelings of anger, bitterness and hunger for revenge.

Forgiveness, especially of heinous or premeditated crimes, does not normally sit well with the psyche of a society that believes in justice above all.

But in our world, justice is only one part of the equation for a well-ordered existence. Justice without mercy is bigotry.

A world full of hate and vengeance, devoid of love and compassion, seems to be the opposite of what we might imagine to be heaven. That destroys the soul of humanity.

At the other end of the spectrum, life with too much tolerance for injustice and human suffering is no different from what hell could be.

Balance is key to maintaining order in our lives, just as equilibrium is the basic principle of the system that runs our universe. A little extra tilt of the planet would throw life on earth into chaos.

The God who we believe created the heavens and the earth has also made sure his balancing power is in place and accessible to the world’s inhabitants through obedience to his moral, spiritual and natural laws.

In more ways than one, the human conscience gets constant reminders that the Supreme Being in charge of this universe is just and merciful, and although sovereign over all, is only a prayer away.

The Deceiver of this world, however, is a tireless worker who grabs every chance he gets to sow his subtle lies in people’s minds, deceiving the unwise with twisted truths about God’s character and plan for his people.

To counter this deception, the seeker of wisdom must anchor himself to the Truth of God’s word, the Bible, which points to the Risen Christ. He that gives meaning to Easter lives in the hearts of his true followers, dispensing justice and grace in equal measure.

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