Monday, April 6, 2009

Death of a Vigilante

People are ugly. Standing on the Bus yesterday I remembered, people are quite nasty pieces of work. One bloke was swearing into the phone, threatening to beat people up, no one would get up for an eldelry man to sit, people pushed and shoved and scowled. Sometimes I feel like taking on the role of a vigilante. Of cleaning this town up by removing some of its scum.
I've been reading Augustine though.
He has this concept of evil as the distortion or privation of good. This makes my fellow travellers even more guilty (me too). It isn't simply that we do wrong, but we fail to do all the good we could with what God has given us. The problem with the guy on the phone isn't simply that he is threatening, but that he isn't building up.
As the confession often says, "we have done what we ought not to have done, and we have not done what we ought to have done".

Which is why wiping out the wicked is never enough. While it may stop the injustice, the world is still deprived of the good these people could be doing. Only the Spirt of God, transforming people and empowering them into the freedom of self-giving work can create the kind of justice that isn't simply the absence of bad, but the presence of abundant good.

This has to change the way I look at people. My question has to stop being, 'how could God restrict them from being jerks?', and start being ' How could the Spirit of Jesus make them life givers for others?'

So, no more Vigilante fantasies.


Matthew Moffitt said...


byron smith said...

Yes - this is great. Not only does the vigilante try to do what God has given only the state the authority to do (coercively restrain gross wickedness), but she fails to do what is more important: to love what is good (and what is potentially good too). Fantasies of wiping out evil and starting again with a clean slate are not restricted to vigilantes. They are everywhere. Even the language of "turning over a new leaf" can participate in this fantasy in which the evil in my own history is erased. Of course, it is simply suppressed. What is needed is not a fresh page, but a story of redemption in which my history is not a death sentence but the prefigurement to a resurrection!

byron smith said...

Think I forgot to tick the follow-up comments box.