For today’s Verse of the Day, I think I am just going to jump right in. This topic hits at the core of our society still today:
But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!
In this verse, the words ‘justice’ and ‘righteousness’ are almost synonymous. These two words are very closely connected. We live in a day where justice is a hot topic. We have about a million Law and Order-type shows. Some of the most popular movies are murder mysteries where someone is trying to right a wrong. Even the Marvel movies have heroes that form the Justice League. Wait…is that Marvel…or is it DC…ahhhhh, I just can’t keep it all straight! I’m more of a Looney Tunes kind of guy. Anyway, the point is that these heroes are supposed to be exacting justice.
The origin of the word ‘justice’ also refers to the word ‘verdict.’ When a verdict is reached, a person is determined to be innocent or guilty based on the charge. Then justice follows giving them what they deserve. It is important to note quickly that justice and vengeance are not connected. One is an attribute of God that we are to emulate (Micah 6:8) and the other is an attribute that God has taken full ownership (Romans 12:19)? Also, we should note that social justice administered by the court systems is endorsed by God but it is different from the personal justice by which we are all called to live by. Personal justice does not include retribution. This would be too much like vengeance. So what is personal justice?
To define this, let’s look at the personal justice of God:
God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood —to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished — 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Look in verse 26 there. To be ‘just’ the Lord sent Christ to be a sacrifice for us to receive by faith for the forgiveness of our sins. In verse 25, it says he did this to demonstrate his righteousness. He had left sins committed before Christ came unpunished in order to give Him time to give mercy through the death of Christ that would cover all sin retroactively. And He did this to be ‘just.’ He did this as an exhibition of His justice. What do we learn from this?
The Lord’s justice was not an ‘eye for an eye.’ I know eye for an eye had been part of the Mosaic Law (Exodus 21:23-25), but when Christ came giving personal justice, He said this:
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.
Christ did not advocate giving people what they deserved but giving grace. The context of Scripture does not lead us to believe that God wants us to be a doormat for people to stomp all over, but we are to give grace. If anyone was justified to give people what they deserved, it would be God, but He doesn’t give anyone what they deserve. Even those who will finally enter the gates of Hell for eternity received grace. The Bible says the wages of sin is death so for God to sustain someone who has sinned with His breath is grace. Personal justice is not giving a verdict of guilt to those who mistreat us and then giving them exactly what they deserve. Personal justice requires grace.
This may be hard for some to wrap their head around. To understand and accept this, we have to see our fellow human beings differently perhaps than we do now. When someone purposely hurts us, we feel quite justified to hurt them back at least to the same level. But the Lord does not isolate the sin of mankind from the condition of mankind. Mankind has been infected with the condition of sin-the sinful nature. Though every human being chooses to sin, there has never been a human being that chose to have a sinful nature. Even Adam and Eve were deceived. They thought they were choosing wisdom. They did not realize they were actually choosing a sinful nature. The sinful nature has caused all of humanity to be bent toward sin. Sin is easy. It is natural. But in the personal justice of the Lord, He does not punish the sin without consideration of the condition. And we should do the same.
Should there be discipline for our children? Of course, but we are reminded that if in that discipline, we overwhelm and frustrate our children, we have crossed a dangerous line (Ephesians 6:4). We give consequences but in love and grace. Love and grace should always be present in our personal justice. When someone hurts you, even if it is on purpose, we draw boundaries. We set up limits to keep it from happening over and over again. But we do all of this in grace remembering every human being is a victim of the sinful nature.
In the personal justice of Christ coming, He responded to those who offended with kindness and this is what we must do. But not everyone will respond to our kindness with kindness. When they don’t, it is time for boundaries, limits, and perhaps even distance from that person. We extend kindness, grace, forgiveness, with compassionate consequences. If they accept this kindness, the relationship is restored. If they do not accept this kindness, our consequences are still laced with love and grace, but with stronger boundaries. This is personal justice. Let it roll on like a river.
Leave me a comment and share how you exhibit justice.
Live Blessed and Be a Blessing!