The coolest scene in the movie X-Men: First Class (2011) is when the U.S. and Russian navies try to destroy the mutants. We see this hail of missiles and shells arching towards the mutants (plus one human being). Some of the mutants had just saved humankind’s butt. But instead of thanking them, the two superpowers decide to destroy all mutants because they feared them. The Magneto character, his power greatly enhanced because Professor Xavier had healed some of his wounded memories, stops the missiles and shells. Then he reverses the direction of the projectiles, sending them back to destroy his tormentors. How did you feel when you watched this scene?
A large part of me said: “All right, serves the humans right. Blow them away. They deserve it, the ungrateful (expletive deleted).” Was it right to feel this way? As the Professor Xavier character said, many thousands of innocent people would die if the missiles and shells hit their targets. Still, my gut feeling was, “Who asked them to launch the unfair attack to begin with? You reap what you sow.” One of my personal mantras is “I never start a fight, but if you attack me for no reason, and refuse to desist when I tell you to, I will finish the fight.” Thank God I rarely live this out, because of the Spirit’s constraint, or because I am a coward, or some combination of the two.
I know this is not a right spirit. Indeed, if we apply “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” without mercy, most of the world would be blind and edentulous. And Christ would not have died for His enemies — He wouldn’t have died for you or for me. Clearly, law without grace leaves us with no hope, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Hence I sometimes ask myself why I am like this.
It’s convenient to blame my personality type. For those familiar with the Myers-Briggs Personality Type system, I am an ENTJ. The T in ENTJ, makes me a “Thinker” which means I:
Step back: apply impersonal analysis to problems
Value logic: justice, and fairness; one standard for all
Naturally see flaws and tend to be critical
May be seen as heartless, insensitive and uncaring
Consider it more important to be truthful than tactful
Believe feelings are valid only if they are logical
Are motivated by a desire for achievement and accomplishment
(Paul D. Tieger & Barbara Barron-Tieger, Do What You Are, Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 2001, 24-25)
People who work with me or are close to me would have seen some of the above in spades. For a very long time I wondered why some people were afraid of me. Or why some celebrated when I fumbled. “Serves you right” cuts both ways.
I am not sure how much credence we should give to personality typing. It is not taught in the bible nor is empirical science united in affirming it. I do see a lot of myself in the ENTJ descriptions I have encountered. What is clear is that I am called to bear the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and surely justice is sometimes hard to distinguish from vengeance, and vengeance is the Lord’s (Romans 12:19).
Two things. First, passion for justice can be a good thing if it sensitizes us to speak and act on behalf of those who have suffered injustice. We are called to speak up for those who can’t speak up for themselves (Proverbs 31:8-9). I remember once when I was in Form 6 (Grade 13), I clashed with the school principal because he punished a group of boys and ended up punishing the innocent with the guilty. “That was not fair,” the T said. The principal didn’t care and warned me that I had crossed the line when I confronted him so strongly. I guess Ts have their uses when they speak up for the downtrodden.
And when I realise how sinful I am, I put the brakes on my T excesses. If I insist on justice and fairness from the Lord, I am lost. When I insist on the sword of justice, I find it placed on my neck. But when I remember that I am a recipient of God’s generous grace, I find myself more able to pass that grace forward. But I constantly forget. God, in His grace, has His ways of reminding me.
On my part, I should spend more time meditating on passages like this one:
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14 NIV)
Some passages were made with Ts in mind. God, have mercy on me a sinner.