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Father Motivated by Love 'and' Justice

At 2:25 A.M. on February 17, 2003, a fight erupted on the second floor of the E2 nightclub in Chicago's South Side. When security personnel arrived they used pepper spray to break up the brawls. The fumes from the spray set off a rush down the front stairwell. In the panic, 21 people were crushed to death or asphyxiated at the bottom of the stairs. Witnesses said the stack of bodies reached nearly six feet high. It was the worst nightclub calamity in Chicago's history.

On the 10th anniversary of the tragedy, the Chicago Tribune ran a story about Howard Ray Sr., the 68-year-old father of DaShand Ray, a young man studying broadcast journalism who got crushed to death that night. It's clear that someone, or more likely, a whole bunch of people were at fault. The club owners allowed five times too many people inside the club. A rear exit was locked. The city of Chicago failed to enforce building code violations. The DJ working that night incited security guards to use the pepper spray. But even ten years later, Howard Ray Sr. is outraged that no one has been held accountable for a preventable catastrophe.

He is still seeking what he calls "real justice." Over the past ten years, Mr. Ray has educated himself on tort law, building codes, and criminal negligence. He has built a website to share information on the tragedy. And he continues to plead with officials to reinvestigate the details. When people suggest that he should just drop his quest for justice and move on, Howard Ray Sr. said, "My son loved me. He trusted me. I can't stop until there's real justice done. [If I didn't want justice] what kind of father would I be?"

Possible Preaching Angles: The Love and Justice of God—Like Howard Ray Sr. our Heavenly Father is motivated by love and justice. If God didn't want "real justice," what kind of Father would he be? Of course there are two important differences in this story and the gospel story. First, we aren't just victims; we're also participants in the cosmic calamity of sin. Second, God himself can bring about "real justice." For instance, his love and justice met perfectly at the cross of Jesus.

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