Word to the Wise
“These also are sayings of the wise…Whoever says to the guilty, ‘You are innocent,’ will be cursed by peoples and denounced by nations. But it will go well with those who convict the guilty, and rich blessing will come on them.” – Proverbs 24:23-24
In July, I helped convict a guilty man. Contrary to this proverb, it does not feel like a blessing.
A year and a half ago a man came into the church where I was working and took my cell phone and an old microwave. The cops used the phone to track him across town. Within the hour everything had been recovered.
This summer I was subpoenaed to testify in his trial. My colleagues and I sent a letter stating that, as the victims, we were not interested in pursuing the case further. We were told he had a history, and there would be a trial. He was going away for a long time.
Meanwhile, as I write this, a white former police officer has been acquitted in the murder of another black man, Anthony Lamar Smith. The officer told his partner he was going to kill Smith before shooting him five times. Contrary to this proverb, the judge has neither been cursed nor denounced by those in power.
I’ve always thought of Proverbs as a book of truisms. Not as much wise words as obvious ones. That the guilty should be held accountable. That the punishment should fit the crime.
But today the obvious is controversial. People are forced to march and kneel to defend the common sense. And what Proverbs makes plain is the depth of our unwisdom.
Righteous Judge, I repent of my cooperation with injustice. Make me wiser.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.