I know a lot of Old Testament Christians. You know what I am referring to when I say an Old Testament Christian, right? An Old Testament Christian is one who doesn’t know how to rightly balance The Law and Grace. The two concepts have never been rightly defined and rightly applied within their own lives. An Old Testament Christian is one who declares “Kill them all and let God sort them out!” at the most extreme, and those that cry “Good! I hope they suffer!” at the least extreme. And to what end? Do they think their own perceived injuries will be vindicated by the death or suffering of the unrighteous? Of course they won’t. If they are looking for justice here on Earth, they are looking in the wrong place.
A lot of these Old Testament Christians will point out that God is a Just and Holy God and that he cannot stand the wicked to be in his presence. They are quick to point to passages like Psalm 58:9-11 but then do not believe that Romans 3:9-11 somehow refers to them. And if there are none righteous (and the passage says “no, not one“) then who is there to rejoice at the vengeance of the wicked?
And it is not just Christians that fall into the trap of proclaiming their justice to be the definitive balance between right and wrong. Here in Baltimore, Maryland this week there were protests over the Freddie Gray incident similar to others held around the United States of America the last several months. A common rallying theme heard at such protests is “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” and all the while the vast, vast majority of those that pick up that cry have never received injury from those they seek vengeance from, nor will they ever receive injury within their lifetimes. And yet they still demand justice.
Everyone wants Justice. The problem is, everyone wants their justice (or justice as they perceive it). When it comes to justice for you or for me or for anyone else, only they are able to judge rightly. Only they have the right sensibilities to correctly apply justice and to extract the exact amount of payment necessary for the crime. We all stand around and judge one another seeking justice for those perceived injuries we feel we have received in our lives.
I have had the sheer joy and pleasure of hearing Dr. Ravi Zacharias speak on several occasions. One of the most profound things I have ever heard him proclaim (and there have been many) is “If there is no God it makes a mockery of justice“. And it is true. Where is the justice for those that died in the Nepal Earthquake? Where is the justice for those wrongfully persecuted and imprisoned? Where is the justice for those that are born into impoverished and violent conditions? Any Atheist who holds to a model of justice in this world is a fool. Their own model should tell them that the chaos within the system will never allow it to be achieved. And if it were, Whose Justice Would It Be Anyways? Yours? Mine? Or theirs? I can certainly assure you it will never be “Ours”.
Allow me to illustrate the point this way. Here in the United States we have an idiom (a saying) that goes “You can’t fight City Hall“. It is a way of saying that you are going to receive an injustice whether you want it or not and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. I had an Atheist (self acknowledged) boss once tell me (in almost the exact same breath) that (a) I couldn’t fight city hall. And (b) that he was the fairest boss in the entire company. And he didn’t even realize the irony of what he was saying when he said it. The fact is, he was saying that any justice other than his did not matter and since he was the most just (fair) it didn’t matter that you couldn’t fight it because it was totally righteous to begin with. Because that is exactly what those two sentences put together mean. He also didn’t realize that just the mere statement of his own self acknowledgement of being the “most fair“, makes him not fair.
No, there is no Justice here in this life. Oh, there are pockets of Justice here and there. There are times when things seem right and just. But there are far more times when we want to cry out for justice and it seems fleeting or escapes us.
What then should our response be here in this life? My Old Testament friends would point out that we should be like God (at least that is what they mean to say). But I would point out that we are to be like Jesus Christ. One might argue that Jesus Christ IS God, and you will get no argument from me on that point. But Jesus Christ is the expression of God in the form of man (see Philippians 2:7-9) and is the example on how we are to be. There are some traits of God we will never possess, nor should we, for he alone is God. But we are to be like Jesus Christ.
And what was Jesus Christ like? Well consider the time when he was in the Temple teaching (pretty much minding his own business) found in John 8:2-11. When a woman caught in the very act of adultery (stop and think of the sheer embarrassment of that for a moment) was brought before Jesus Christ, what was his response? It is found in verse 11, where he says “Neither do I condemn thee:“. If the God of Heaven and Earth stands before a woman caught in the very act of adultery (which is a violation of the law) and says to her that he does not condemn her, then who are we to seek our irrelevant justice here on Earth? Please note the last part of Jesus’ sentence to the woman, “go, and sin no more“. He said “sin no more“. Jesus Christ recognized that she had sinned. He realized that she was in the wrong. And yet there was no condemnation.
That is Grace. That is God’s Grace. And that is Grace as only God can deliver it.
Perhaps the world would be a slightly better place if we were to all step back and consider our injustices, and before we seek justice or vengeance ask ourselves the question: Whose Justice Is It Anyway?