Personal Honor and Christopher Dorner, Part II

The Honor of Men

By Kersley Fitzgerald

See Part 1 here.

"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" —Micah 6:8

Christopher Dorner was considered a kind of folk hero to some. I heard a Christian DJ wonder aloud why the LAPD was so quick to terminate the Dorner situation when law enforcement in Alabama were so patient with the man who kidnapped the little boy. If the DJ had read the manifesto, maybe he would have understood—Dorner specifically threatened to kill cops and their families. (See part 1 of this 2-part series for a summary.) The kidnapper, by all accounts, actually took care of the boy at the beginning.

Here's the kicker: maybe 90% of Dorner's resolutions were logical, objective, and well thought out. He was quick to protect the weak and praise those he respected—while not being blind to their faults and shortcomings. The problem was his baseline. His personal worldview, by which he interpreted life, was noble to an extent but still skewed. His entire motivation was the protection of the personal honor of himself and those he identified with. His abhorrence of racism and injustice was motivated by his own honor.

It's ironic that he lived in LA because he embodied the worldview of countless movie and TV heroes. He was the Count of Monte Cristo in all his glory. Nothing else mattered but his name and justice on those who wronged him. And don't we just love it? We love to see wrongs made right and honor restored. Edmond Dantes wins, though. He destroyed his enemies, killing many, and ended up happy, rich, and attached to a beautiful young woman (not Mercedes, unlike the recent movie). Dorner didn't win. He killed innocent people and then died. He is the anti-hero. The tragedy to Dantes' victory.

But at the core, they were the same. At the core, in the throne of their lives, was themselves. Their honor. Their strength, which they used to aid the weak. Or the weak they identified with at any rate. The weak who got in their way were just collateral damage.

What was missing was any perspective of their Creator. Is God concerned about the honor of Dorner and Dantes? To a degree, yes. God hates injustice. He blesses those who fight for others. But He does not consider the justice and honor given by men to other men to be of any consequence.

God's opinion of man-defined honor is spelled out in Matthew 5:38-42:

You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

What does this mean? It relates to honor and justice. Back then, a slap meant the same thing it means now—a personal insult. Jesus tells us that personal insults do not mean anything in God's economy. The honor of men does not mean one blessed thing. We are instructed not to care if others dishonor us, unless we are guilty of an offence and the dishonor harms the spread of the Gospel. We are only to care if our actions are honorable, but whether or not the nobility of our actions is recognized should be of no concern (Matthew 6:1-18).

Matthew 5:40, about giving up our shirts and coats, teaches us that God cares little for our physical possessions. He has promised to clothe and feed us enough that we can do His will for us. If we really trusted Him with that, we wouldn't worry about whether another's actions toward us were fair. Is someone over-charging us? Does a friend neglect to repay a debt? Did someone ding our car? Deal with it in dignity and charity, and if we end up the poorer, trust God to make up the difference.

Matthew 5:41, about walking one or two miles, refers to a governmental situation at the time. Roman soldiers were allowed to force a resident to help them move or carry a load for one mile. Jesus says: go two. Don't get your undies in a twist because the government requires you to do something. You are just visiting—your citizenship is in Heaven. If your goal in life is to serve the Kingdom of God, consider this: God allowed that irritating governmental requirement to land in your path. Maybe He wants you to serve Him by sacrificing for the government. The world is big, but God's picture is bigger still.

For those who claim to follow Jesus and for those who believe Jesus was a good teacher, remember this: Jesus said these words. The honor of men means nothing. Work for the justice of others, but do not think too highly of justice toward yourself—God will judge in His time. Do not worry when others demand your time and possessions. They are God's, and He will redeem them in a way that will best bless you in the long run.

Was Christopher Dorner right? Is the LAPD filled with corruption, abuse, and racism? Probably. He was right to file a complaint when he witnessed a cop abusing suspects and witnesses. He was not right when he picked up a gun and killed innocent people because he lost his job. LA is not a French novel. Dorner had no God. All he had was a self-defined system of right and wrong based on what other people thought of him and how other people treated him.

From Jesus, we get something completely different: an objective, absolute, unshakable identity defined by our Creator and based not on our own fallen, broken honor, but on the unblemished honor of Jesus.

Imagine what Dorner could have done if he'd understood that—that the core of his identity had nothing to do with words and lies and his job, but with the God who loved him. He could have been a tremendous warrior for justice.

"And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." —Matthew 10:28

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Published 3-4-13