Which do we value more? Do we place a greater value on the individual as a person, or the deeds and actions they perform? This is a rhetorical question of course, I suspect the answer I will get most often is “why, the person, of course!” But is this the reality? Is this the truth of the matter? Better not to rush to answer, better I think to first explore the question. (*I suppose I should preface this, in that I did write this from a Christian perspective, but I encourage those of other faith walks to add their perspectives if they so desire.) We naturally associate a person with what it is he or she does. He’s a cook, she’s a stay-at-home mom, he’s a carpenter, she’s a liar, and he’s a thief. This is an ingrained tendency, at least in the West, where when people first began to take surnames, they very often choose (or had chosen for them as the case may be) names that associated them with what jobs they performed. The first John Baker most likely was a baker by trade. The first James Carpenter likely worked with wood, and the first Tom Sawyer likely cut wood into lumber. This begins a latent association in the Western mind, linking the individual with the choices and actions they make in life. This is an important distinction, we associate people with what actions they do. We still link people today with the things they do. He’s a businessman, she’s a career woman, he’s a great dad, she’s a great mom. He’s a dead beat, she’s a crack head, he’s an alcoholic, she’s a loose woman. We tend to get a bit judgmental regarding the actions other people perform. We pretend this judgement is justice, recompense, or maybe some interpretation of Karma. What goes around comes around. And we, personally each of us as individuals, know exactly what is right and correct for everyone on the planet. Except our own self of course, if we are truthful. The hardest person to judge fairly is the one we face in the mirror. We all make mistakes. That is how we learn. The difference is that when we make a mistake, we justify it to ourselves as a weak moment. When someone else makes the very same mistake, why, they’ve just damned themselves to hell! The brazen hussy! The drunken bum! The nit-wit! It never ceases to amaze me, how people who are quite guilty of a criminal offense; tried, judged, convicted and paid their debt to society, believe it is their right to sit in judgement of another. Somehow they justify, I suppose, that because they were caught and made to pay the piper, that all others should be equally brought to judgement in this life. News flash: life isn’t fair, people are not equal, and they never will be. Things will continue to remain disparate, regardless of all of the best of intentions by well meaning but misguided do-gooders. Justice is not always fair. So, should justice be withheld? Please note I said justice, not judgement. This is important, because as Christians we are commanded not to judge others. Yet, if I read the Bible correctly, justice is required when it can be conducted in a fair and impartial manner. Sometimes life is not fair and impartial, so should all justice be suspended? I suspect civilization by rule of law would collapse, and I cannot see how the alternative would be any better. Equally amazing to me is the people who believe themselves faultless, who have never even gotten a parking ticket, who shriek in rabid judgment of those they believe are not living up to their “righteous” standard. I can relate to these people, I counted myself in their ranks at one time. But something kept gnawing at me, something about judgment, about not judging others lest we be judged, about with what measure we mete shall be measured against us. Something about the woman at the well, who had had six husbands. The one she was with, the seventh, was not even married to her! The audacity, the fornicating bitch, to dare even speak to the Christian Messiah! And the woman taken in the act of adultery, a capital offense! Stone her! Stone her for her indiscretions!!! Seems to me, if Jesus acted as we do, judging people by their actions, demanding our own personal satisfaction of what we deem as justice (which is hardly ever fair or impartial), He would have cast the first stone. Our Christian role model was able to look beyond these ladies’ faults and find something worth salvaging in their hearts. Salvation---Salvaging, hmmm. I found a very important lesson in this. We are told we will one day stand before the Great White Throne judgment. On that day God and His assigns will hold each of us accountable for our actions and deeds in this, and potentially any other, existences. Until that time, we are to work towards redemption, both our own and to assist others. We are to hold the person to be of greater value over the actions that person performs. We are our brother’s, and sister’s, keepers. We are not to judge others, but to look beyond and do what we can to guide them in the proper direction. Presuming of course, that we actually know what that proper direction is. I believe this direction is ingrained, we know right from wrong, even if we sometimes justify to ourselves ways around this reality. We are not talking about pointing directions to Peoria from Grand Rapids via Cucamonga, we want what is best for those we care about. We are supposed to care about everybody. As it seems to be with all great truths, there is paradox. We will bear the scars of our sins. This is not my judgment, this is reality. Sins can be, and to great extent should be, forgiven. But the penalty for the sin does not “just go away.” An easy example is that of the alcoholic, who because of excess of indulgence destroys his liver. It is not, necessarily, the alcohol that is the sin, it is the lack of moderation in its use. This is relatively easy to see and apply with things and attitudes. What about a crime such as murder? The wage of sin will be paid. It is seldom ours, as mere humans, to presume judgment, unless we are specifically employed by society as a judge. Even for these people, presuming sincerity, it is a challenge to remain aloof, fair-handed and disconnected. Blind and balanced. If a person is fairly and rightly judged for a crime they have committed, then they are subject to the laws of the land. If that means capital punishment, then that society as a whole deems that an appropriate penalty. To have life taken from the one who has taken a life. Is this correct, proper and righteous? Fair question. There are societies who have deemed that they do not want the collective guilt of unfair conviction, of wrongly carrying out sentence on an innocent person. These societies deem lifetime incarceration as preferable to what they consider state-sanctioned murder. All’s fair in love and war, I suppose. Given the choice, if I were wrongly convicted of a capital offense, I would prefer death to life in a prison. But that’s just me. In the end, God will sort it out anyway. Whether Karma brings the unrepentant perp back as a slug or cockroach, or whether the one who was falsely accused and executed receives a greater inheritance for his unwilling sacrifice, remains for the next life to be seen. I have faith it will all come out in the wash. I have heard it said that no good deed goes unpunished. Of course, it is also said that every bad deed will be rewarded. Verily!