ne thing is clear: someone is guilty. Little girls don’t end up duct-taped and garbage-bagged in the woods all by themselves.
Collective public outrage has been building in the hours since the “not guilty” verdicts left the American public speechless. Casey Anthony’s parents have already received death threats, perhaps from indignant people who struggle to find a more suitable outlet for venting frustration over the fact that whoever did this will likely never answer have to answer for it—at least not in the world’s courts.
To be perfectly frank, I struggled with the verdict myself. As the father of young girls, my paternal blood almost boils over when I hear about people mistreating children. And the fact that the person thought to be the likely perpetrator (or perhaps one of them) is going to walk out of prison a free woman is hard to take. Many who followed the case probably found themselves muttering, “She just looked so . . . guilty. Her stories didn’t add up.” The explanations offered by the defense left many wondering about both a mother’s guilt and the state of jurisprudence in the United States.
This verdict rattles what little faith many of us had left in human government and human justice. It makes me long—no, ache—for the kingdom without pain, death, or tears; the kingdom where not only parents are safe; everybody is.
In the hours since the verdict was read by a court clerk who appeared as visibly troubled as the rest of us, I’ve begun to ruminate on a few sobering thoughts.
One possibility, and one I don’t want to admit: 12 jurors might, maybe, somehow, be right. It’s possible (even remotely) that the rest of us, fueled by modern sound-bite reality, have been drawn by the scent of blood into a public feeding frenzy. History is dotted with stranger-than-fiction stories. Perhaps this is one of them.
Then there’s the more comforting thought that Someone knows every last detail of the case, and He is known to hear cries for justice from the stains of innocent blood. “Cain, the voice of your brother’s blood cries to Me from the ground” (Gen. 4:10). “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:10).
The Bible reminds us that while real justice will have to wait for the resolution of the controversy, we can rest in the knowledge that Palmoni, the Wonderful Numberer (Dan. 8:13, margin) doesn’t miss anything. “For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil”
(Eccl. 12:14). He is particularly attentive to the needs and rights of children, who reminded Jesus of His heavenly home.
I may not like the result, but the jury has spoken, the judge has agreed. The task before me is to leave it with the God of Daniel (whose name means, “God is my judge”
) and get about the business God has given me to do.
I will make every effort to keep anything like this from happening to someone else, and will guard my neighbor’s children like my own. I will also, to the best of my ability, share the only thing that can bring genuine hope in a cruelly twisted world—the redeeming, converting love of Christ.
One more thought has plagued me over recent days, and it’s the most uncomfortable of all. Think about the moral outrage and emotional pain you felt when you first heard about Caylee Anthony’s brutal demise. Few, if any, of us actually knew her, yet the anger, frustration, and pain were palpable.
Now remember Jesus standing at the tomb of Lazarus, weeping for the unnecessary death of every one of God’s children: ask yourself what kind of pain and frustration our sin has caused our heavenly Father. Consider the following paragraphs from The Desire of Ages
, which underline both God’s merciful love and the deep shame of our own behavior:
“Christ did not weep for Lazarus; for He was about to call him from the grave. He wept because many of those now mourning for Lazarus would soon plan the death of Him who was the resurrection and the life” (p. 533).
“It was not only because of the scene before Him that Christ wept. The weight of the grief of ages was upon Him. He saw the terrible effects of the transgression of God’s law. He saw that in the history of the world, beginning with the death of Abel, the conflict between good and evil had been unceasing. Looking down the years to come, He saw the suffering and sorrow, tears and death, that were to be the lot of [men and women]. His heart was pierced with the pain of the human family of all ages and in all lands. The woes of the sinful race were heavy upon His soul, and the fountain of His tears was broken up as He longed to relieve all their distress” (p. 534).
Someone is guilty
of something: little girls like Caylee don’t end up stashed in the woods by accident. If her cruel and ignominious death has stirred such emotion in our own sin-stained hearts, imagine the way it wrenches the heart of Christ. I imagine myself to be utterly incapable of such horrific sins, but I have no plausible deniability when it comes to the pain in our world. I have caused my share of it, for I have sinned.
I’ve never had to hide a body, but I’m painfully cognizant of the way the innocent Lamb of God equates hatred with murder. By Jesus’ standards I have murdered, committed adultery, stolen, failed to honor my parents, taken the Lord’s name in vain, and broken the Sabbath. So have you; more times that any of us would care to admit.
Now here’s the clincher: I am going to be acquitted. That’s right; I’m going to be released from the prison of death even though I certainly do not deserve it. My sins killed the Son of God. My pride was a spear in His side, and my unbelief the nails in His hands. My sins roughly and cruelly pushed a crown of thorns down over His brow.
Yet I will not receive the ultimate wages of sin because Jesus was, as Ellen White put it: “condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His” (The Desire of Ages
, p. 25).
To be sure, I’m not at all happy with the Casey Anthony verdict. In fact, I’m still cooling down as I write these words. It seems like somebody ought to pay for such a horrible atrocity, and I’m still hoping that somehow, the law will catch up with the perpetrator. But I am also freshly aware that I myself am standing in heaven’s docket, with curious angels marveling at the fact that Jesus plans to take me into the kingdom.
“He has not dealt with us according to our sins,” the Psalmist reminds us, “nor punished us according to our iniquities” (Ps. 103:10).
Was Casey Anthony undeserving of her verdict? Quite possibly. I know for a fact that I don’t deserve mine.
Shawn Boonstra is associate director for evangelism in the North American Division Ministerial Association.