They asked us how we got through it, and I say, love first, justice second. – Wilma Derksen
Cliff and Wilma Derksen lost their daughter Candace (above left). She was murdered in Winnipeg more than 2 decades ago. The Puckett family lost their son Matt (above right) by way of execution by the state of Mississippi only a few days ago. He did not receive a fair trial. Two families worlds apart share in the all too common pain of loss. Yet, they press on.
The word shalom means so much more than peace. Strongs concordance defines shalom as completeness, soundness, welfare, and peace. Some definitions use the word harmony. A harmony with God, with creation and with each other.
A few weeks ago Stuart Murray introduced me to the term “shalom activists.”
Amidst all the complexity of humanity, pain and all, shalom seeks to harmonize the relationships we have with each other, and with God. The Derksen’s and the Puckett’s are special people who strive for a wholistic peace, an in your face shalom in spite of a painful and unrelenting reality. In doing this, they become agents of a God who loves unconditionally. It’s not easy. Seeking shalom doesn’t get rid of the brutality of the moment with warm fuzzy feelings like the movies. The miraculous persistence of these shalom activists offer harsh lessons in reality for those who know the story, who have had the privilege to walk beside, and who have stood on the sidelines watching from afar. They remind us that the collision between this divine shalom and our nitty-gritty world is not pretty. Yet, the pursuit of shalom from these families offer us a beacon of hope amidst a seemingly ever darkening world. Shalom isn’t about hand holding around the camp fire singing kumbaya. Such an image seems to spit in the face of justice. Shalom asks us to love first, justice second. On our broken world, it’s a mess.
The Puckett’s and the Derksen’s in their separate realities offer us a glimpse of the collision between shalom and our world by loving first. In so doing, they are in harmony with one another and with God. I am humbled.
Concerning the claim of justice for the victim’s family, I say there is no amount of retaliatory deaths that would compensate to me the inestimable value of my daughter’s life, nor would they restore her to my arms. To say that the death of any other person would be just retribution is to insult the immeasurable worth of our loved ones who are victims. We cannot put a price on their lives. That kind of justice would only dehumanize and degrade us because it legitimates an animal instinct for gut-level blood thirsty revenge…. In my case, my own daughter was such a gift of joy and sweetness and beauty, that to kill someone in her name would have been to violate and profane the goodness of her life; the idea is offensive and repulsive to me.
Marietta Jaeger, whose 7 year-old daughter Susie was kidnapped and murdered in the US in 1973.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:5