by Christopher Harbin

Mixed Motives
Christopher B. Harbin
1 Kings 2:41-3:9

Fairy tales, Hollywood, and comic books tend to separate people into neat categories of good and evil. We are used to that way of categorizing people. It makes it difficult for us to make more accurate assessments of others and even of ourselves. Light and dark, black and white, good and evil is the way we want to distinguish people, make decisions, and categorize people, systems, and things according to worth or value. Deep down, we know better. It often takes more effort to deal with these deeper definitions than we are willing to give, however. We want the quick answers. We want the simple definitions. We want definitive categories. Truth and reality are far more complicated.

We generally make decisions based on a mix of motives. Some of those motives are good. Some are less so. Some are completely inappropriate, bad, or wrong. We are not so simple in orientation that we have all good or all evil intentions behind our actions. Our motives are mixed. The values of our actions and decisions are mixed. We live life in shades of gray, though we want to speak of it as black and white.

A jury in Florida returned a verdict of not-guilty this week. Some are rejoicing in a verdict of innocence. Some are distressed at a miscarriage of justice that allows a youth to be killed and the shooter to go free. Some have viewed the Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman case as an issue of prejudice against the African-American community. Others have looked at the case from a position of the right to bear arms or the right to use them in self-defense. Others have looked at the issue of a civilian taking advantage of laws that allowed him to take initiatives in carrying out justice beyond the limitations of legal sanction. That array of motives looking down on the case should tell us something. We are not looking at the case from the same perspective. Neither should we attempt to boil down the issues to one single strand ...

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