ReligionJune 5, 2024
Can one embody both frontier justice and divine mercy? Explore the spiritual struggle of a minister torn between the roles of preacher and lawman, and the profound lessons from Isaiah 53:12.
Rod Parchman
Rod Parchman
Rod Parchman

“Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:12)

Me? I’m like, “Get a rope!” I’m tacking up wanted posters and calling them out. Book 'em Dano! Standing up for the innocent is one thing. But Isaiah speaks of one who does something recklessly other, interceding for those in the wrong.

I mean, I’m all for amazing grace, but not without frontier justice and gallows. I’ve got some Billy Graham in me — right next to Wyatt Earp. Half tent evangelist, half Texas Ranger. Part preacher man, part lawman, I don’t know whether to reach for the Bible or my badge. Man of the cloth or bounty hunter? Holy man? Henchman? Hallelujah! And “hang 'em high and lonesome!”

I’m a straight arrow by most estimates, but I admit to an under-the-table, maverick disposition at times. A little bit Jesus, a little bit Geronimo. One part parson, two parts pistolaro. A little bit altar call, a little bit outlaw, walking a line between John the Baptist and bandito. I’m exaggerating some, but, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray. Each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6) "All," Isaiah says.

Isaiah’s tough guy has the courageous humility to identify with the guilty and their penalty. So how can I quick-draw my accusations when he says of the guilty, “These are my people,” and takes my allegations to his self? "Numbered with," the text says. “If you are numbering the guilty,” he seems to say, “count me in that number.”

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Isn’t it ironic? Believers (the forgiven) are too often stingy with mercy and slow to forgive. Our hearts and heaven recognize the dissonance even if we don’t. So, unforgiveness turns rancid to bitterness that brings physical, emotional, mental, spiritual torment. It’s not pretty. Tit for tat will leave you in tatters. Failing to forgive is to chance forfeiting your own forgiveness (Mt 6:14,15). Sober now?

There is no peace until offended people forgive, until the oppressed pardon their oppressors and the abused absolve their abusers. You’re not 5-O, the morality police or the sheriff. Stay in your lane. Assigning guilt and mercy rationing aren’t on you.

Whether it’s carrying our own guilt or assigning guilt to others, these are burdens too much for you and me. So, “Trade me. Take mine,” he says. “Mine are light. I’ll carry yours. I got those bags. I’ll shoulder that. That’s on me. I’ll take the hit.”

Sometimes it’s those closest to Jesus, riding posse, who are all too eager for “justice.” Remember those two disciples (sons of thunder), who wanted to call down fire from heaven? No wonder Jesus had to keep them close, and says to them, “You know not what spirit you are of.” (Luke 9:51-55)

ROD PARCHMAN is a minister in Cunningham, Tennessee, with ties to Bollinger County.

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