Justice or Mercy?

O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever.” Psalm 118:1

One of my favorite movies is The Count of Monte Cristo starring Jim Caviezel, based, of course, upon the Alexandre Dumas novel by the same name. In the film, Caviezel’s character, Edmond Dantes, is unfairly put into the prison, Chateau d’If, after being betrayed by his best friend Fernand Mondego and his shipmate, Danglars, for transporting a letter from Napoleon off the island of Elba. On the wall of Dantes’ cell is an inscription that reads, “God will grant me justice.” Consumed by revenge, Dantes regularly uses a rock to trace the words to motivate himself during his thirteen year stay in confinement. He eventually meets a fellow prisoner, a priest, who reminds him that vengeance belongs to God. Before dying, the priest tells Dantes of the treasure of Spada and makes him promise to only use it for good, not revenge.

Dantes is able to escape due to a combination of providential circumstances and his own ingenuity. He then sets out to find the treasure which the priest had told him about. Once he acquires it, he takes on a new name, the Count of Monte Cristo, and proceeds to exact justice upon all those who betrayed him. In the process of seeking his revenge, he almost loses the love of his life, Mercedes, who had wed Fernand when she was falsely told that Edmond had been executed. She manages to soften his heart and reminds him that he cannot escape God. He repents of his hatred and vengeance and finds a new gratitude to God for all that he has been given. He realizes that the priest was right, and he promises to now use the treasure only for good.

Besides being an awesome movie because it’s set near the end of the Napoleonic Era in France and based upon a classic novel, The Count of Monte Cristo can teach us multiple life lessons, especially ones concerning revenge and forgiveness. Dantes desperately wants God to grant him justice, but by the end of the story, he realizes that he needs to let go of his hatred. When we think about our lives, do we really want God to grant us justice? Don’t we rather need God to grant us mercy?

Thoughts of justice and revenge will lead to a cold heart and a dried-up life. We become obsessed with our hatred and anger. A much better way is to let go of the anger and let God handle our enemies. This attitude frees us up to enjoy the blessings that God has given us. Besides, we are not innocent ourselves. Have we not also done wrong to others? Do we want them focused solely on their desire to get us back for how we have injured them? Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:44 to do four things to our enemies: love them, bless them, do good to them, and pray for them. Isn’t that how we want others to treat us as well? Another good reminder is found in the Beatitudes, in Matthew 5:7, where Jesus told his disciples, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”

So, again, do we really want justice? No, what we should say is, “God, grant us mercy.” And like the above verse from Psalms says, we should be grateful for that mercy. Thank God that He is good and merciful. What a wonderful Savior we serve! Just remember, though, that God will treat you how you treat others. If you go around with a strict and severe measuring stick and a heart void of mercy, that may be how you will be treated as well. And that is a sobering reminder.

Make History Great Again


When I was in college, I took classes on the French Revolution and Napoleon. My professor assigned us books to read that would supplement the lectures. One book was on the economic and demographic statistics of France during that period. It was as dry as an old cupboard. I was bored out of my mind, and I had to force myself to read it. The professor also assigned a biography of Horatio Nelson. I breezed right through that book and appreciated the lessons on character that I gleaned from it. I’m currently reading a book on Napoleon from that course that I didn’t get to read while I was taking the class. It’s also a biography, and it’s one of the most interesting and informative books about Napoleon that I’ve read. What is my point?

There’s been a change in how history is taught. It seems to me that history used to be much more about teaching through biographies and stories. Kids would soak up the material, which was replete with heroes and traitors, victors and villains. Instead of stories to learn and heroes to emulate, the teaching of history now seems to consist mostly of sterile, scientific analysis of trends and patterns at best, and bashing of Western Civilization and America through a lens of victimhood and oppression at worst.

Let’s discuss the analytical aspect first. The heart and soul has been taken out of history. If you flip through a typical college textbook on American History, you will see very little biographical information and anecdotal stories on traditional figures and even less of detailed description of battles and such. You will find new information on minority rights movements, whether it be by race, gender, or sexuality, and you will also find the emphasis has shifted from personalities to patterns, especially economic ones.

Now we should teach about slavery and the oppression of blacks, because obviously that’s a huge part of American history. The nation fought a Civil War over it, dealt with racism and segregation, and passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But what makes all of that so interesting to study is the personalities–people like Abraham Lincoln and MLK Jr.

The problem arises when historians try to paint all the rich, white, male Founders as bad people. Then you change the whole idea of America from a positive to a negative one. Much of the anti-Americanism in historiography today can be attributed to what happened in the sixties. When the Woodstock generation grew up and began to take over instruction on college campuses, a shift took place in how American history was taught. Instead of presenting America as a guardian of liberty, democracy, and the Judeo-Christian tradition, the new history sought to paint the United States as a racist oppressor. Of course, the Neo-Marxists and the Frankfurt School also had a major impact.

But I digress. My main point is not to rail against anti-Americanism, so much as it is to challenge the methods and means by which we teach history. It’s no wonder why many kids don’t want to learn history. They’re bored. They don’t care so much about knowing the economic minutia of the early colonial period or the price of cotton in the Old South, as they do about George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware at night on Christmas and his perseverance in the harsh winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge. They want to hear about the rise of Frederick Douglas from slave to statesman, the determination of the Greatest Generation as they faced the Great Depression and World War II, and the courage of Rosa Parks as she refused to give up her seat in the “colored section” on a bus to a white passenger.

I think we could learn a few things from the emotional sensibilities of that early 19th-century movement in our jaded age. So, I say let’s get back to the heroic lessons on Washington’s character, honor, and integrity as well as the fascinating stories of Napoleon’s adventures and romances, his victories and defeats. Let’s study MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech and read again his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Let’s focus more on the personalities which make history come alive. Let’s make history great again. Or at least let’s make it interesting.

What are You Reading?

books-bookstore-book-reading-159711.jpegIf you are like me you may be reading several books at once and going back and forth between them. Currently, I have the following books on my nightstand:  All Quiet on the Western Front, The Count of Monte Cristo, Message in a Bottle, and a book on Napoleon. I would like to know what you are reading. Leave a comment below:

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton