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Monday, April 14, 2014

Justice Belongs to God

Every one of us has someone who has done something wrong to us. Sometimes it was volitional. Sometimes their selfishness caused them to step on us. Their malevolent intent or their careless selfishness angered us. We have a sense of justice within us. It is part of being created in the image of God. We want to enact that justice. That's just our flesh.

God has given us responsibility in His world. We are empowered to deal out punishment. We are given permission to hinder evil and chaos. But we will never be able to exact true justice. That has nothing to do with how good we are. We simply do not have the right. It is God's world. He is the great judge. He will mete out justice to everyone.

As Christians we should have already known that. The wages of sin is death. That is justice. God sent His Son to fulfill His justice. God's gift to us is accepting us because we have identified with Christ. We are forgiven of our debt because He has paid for it. Justice is the exact payment for the exact crime.

We are guilty of sin when we do something unloving to another person. We need forgiveness or we will suffer the estrangement from God which yields a dry, meaningless life without vital interaction with Christ. Those who act unloving toward us will suffer the same fate. They, no more than us, can go on as if nothing has happened. We, as people who have identified with Christ, must act as Christ has to those who have sinned against Him. He continues to love and offer grace even though they reject His offers. They heap the judgement on themselves by continuing to act hatefully when we offer them love.

Yet, since we do not see their suffering at the moment of their hatefulness, we assume that there is no justice. We forget that God is always a God of justice and not one of the things done good or bad will ever be forgotten. Knowing this makes our grace sweeter and drives us to confession. Failing to realize this further condemns us.

I believe that one who has identified with Christ will always be convicted and drawn to confession and forgiveness. Those who have given lip service only will not notice His absence and, therefore, will not seek His forgiveness through confession. The mark of a Christian is found in Jesus' love. It flows through him and fulfills him. The person who has not identified with Christ lives without Jesus' love flowing through him. He doesn't miss this love because he has never had it.

Therefore, the Christian acts in love toward those who are acting hatefully toward him. He give them no excuse of their hatefulness. Hate begets hate. Returned hatefulness can be the reaction of being hated. But doing good to the hateful one takes away any justification he feels in being hateful. His hatefulness is fully on his own head.

So, we must believe God is a God of justice and leave justice in His hands. We must identify with Christ so strongly that we know God's justice in sending Jesus to the cross. We must depend upon God's justice when dealing with those who act hatefully toward us. Our action of love reflects the identification we have in Christ. Our act of love will allow for God's justice to be purely given to those who act hatefully.

We must never forget that justice belongs to God.

Romans 12:19-20 (ESV)
19  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  20  To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 

3 comments:

Anthony Chia said...

The Scripture text suggested to us one of the radical ways of God on how we are to treat our enemies. You see, to love or treat another nicely or lovingly, when that person has NOT offended us or wronged us, it is NOT that difficult when we do have some compassion. It is like you see a starving beggar in the park and you, out of your compassion, give over your lunch pack for him to eat. The beggar did NOT offend or done you any wrong; and so, it is NOT too difficult to do that good works. But what if the person is your enemy? It would be more difficult, for there are additional issues to be dealt with. There are the hurt, resentment, and even bitterness that you could be harbouring.

The natural way of the world may be: you are going to do him in, now that he is “weak from hunger”; that’s right, you may want revenge. You do NOT want to do the person good, to “strengthen him by giving him the food”. The phrase, “the ways of the world” and “the ways of the flesh” are the same, for they are ways perpetuated by the Devil, against the ways of God. Our fallen flesh would NOT want us to do good to our enemy. But the ways of the Holy Spirit (or the Kingdom) are different; they are opposing to those of the flesh (actually such use of flesh in Scripture is actually referring to the fallen flesh; everybody is having the fallen flesh). Instead of “ways”, we can see Scripture using “desires”, too, as in the desires of the flesh and those of the Spirit are opposing.

There are particular exhortations for the way we are to deal with our enemy in Scripture, instead of just lumping everything under a general understanding of dealing with a neighbour or stranger; why? This is why: Because Satan’s purpose is to play us against God and against one another; and so, the fallen world is full of situations of enmity and hatred. To come against that, God has brought on the Gospel, which is love. This counter-approach is what I have come to call it as the love-shock approach. So, for dealing with enemy, God’s ways are NOT the fallen world’s ways; it is NOT an eye for an eye or evil for evil. Rather, it is to love-shock the other party. And so, we find such as these:

1. The party hits you on the left cheek, you turn to let him have your right cheek;
2. The party takes your cloak, you offer even your tunic;
3. The party wants you to run the mile, you offer to run an extra mile;
4. The party wrongs you, you forgive him, by grace;
5. The enemy is now in need, you help him;
6. The party curses you, you bless him, instead;
7. The party wants you to go to Hell, you want him to go to Heaven; you pray for him (NOT the Devil, but men), and for his salvation.

“But Bro Anthony, you mean believers cannot have justice or stand up for justice or fight against injustice?”

Now, before we get too excited and upset, there are a few related issues involved here:

When we are talking about enemy or enmity, here, it means the other party has wronged you.

We are NOT talking about the case of you were the one who has wronged the other party (you created the enmity). If you are the one in the wrong, Scripture said you have to get right with the person before you go make your offering of worship unto the Lord. Scripture has it that, as far as it is up to us, we have to live in peace and harmony with others. So, if you are wrong, you have to go ask for forgiveness, and be reconciled.

Coming back to the scenario of the other party was the party in the wrong; he has wronged you, there is still things you have to do.

One thing that you must do is to forgive the other party; in your heart, you must forgive the person, without undue delay, even before he apologises or anything like that! There is NOT any merit that the other party has to offer to you, for you to forgive him in your heart. You have to forgive him, by grace.

cont...

Anthony Chia said...

cont. from above

What are the other things you have to do? When the other person shows prima facie repentance, you are to release your forgiveness to him; this too is a must. Let me repeat the sequence: You have to forgive, regardless, by grace, in your heart. This part is before releasing forgiveness; you have to forgive in your heart, before you can release it.

If the person is before you, and shows prima facie repentance (like he says he is sorry), you have to release your forgiveness to him (like, you say, “I forgive you”). If the other person has NOT shown any repentance, NOT even prima facie, then in line with “we are our brother’s keeper”, we should hold back the releasing of our forgiveness (but we have forgiven in our heart), pending any sign of repentance. If we immediately release the forgiveness, we are sending wrong signal to the other party, like it is alright for him to do what he did, the wrong; and it will “encourage” such wrongful ways. A brother’s keeper’s conduct includes NOT to mislead another brother.

“So, I cannot demand justice-lah, is that it?” The justice that you ask for, is “He admits he has wronged you”. In other words, you are vindicated that you were wronged by the other party.

What if you cannot get this justice, i.e. that party would NOT admit he was wrong? You still should have forgiven him, in your heart; and that has to be you truly forgave him. You don’t have to release your forgiveness to the party, for he is NOT admitting wrong and is NOT asking for forgiveness. The exception for this, is only when the Holy Spirit prompts you to do that, anyway (in this case, the Holy Spirit knows something you don’t know or has a particular reason for you to do so).

“Can’t I ask for more, like a compensation in the form of, say, medical treatment reimbursement, for, say, a case of the other party was drunk and hit me for no fault of mine, and landed me up in the hospital?” You can, but you have to be contended with just a sincere apology; anything else is a bonus, so to speak.

In other words, if the other party gives the valid reason that he is NOT able to pay for the hospital bill, you have to accept that or ask for a lesser thing and see if the other party can meet. Even if nothing else other than a sincere apology is given to you, you have to release forgiveness to him.

You can’t, for example, punch him and kick him until he has to, like you, land up in the hospital before you will forgive him. If you do that, that is getting even, that is NOT forgiveness; there is no forgiveness on your part, for forgiveness is by grace. When you land him in hospital in return, there is merit or compensation; it is he has paid you or provided merit. Forgiveness does NOT work this way, “You pay compensation, then I will forgive you,” That is NOT forgiveness; that is you got even; that is revenge even! Col 3:13 said that we have to forgive the same way God forgave us. How does God forgive? By grace. He did NOT demand you compensate or merit His forgiveness. He Himself provided the merit, His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the Cross, to forgive you; you and I provide no merit at all, for receiving God’s forgiveness. You have to be merciful; forgive and release forgiveness, duly, and NOT as in the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, cause the other party to be tormented or in torment.

“But I have use for the money, which is now gone; gone to pay for the medical bill; how?” God’s way is indeed radical. God pays or sacrifices to forgive you and I! Yah, He paid with or sacrificed His Son’s life, to forgive us! So, likewise, there is no surprise that there is a sacrifice or loss on our part, when we forgive another.

cont...

Anthony Chia said...

cont. from above

It is always to be, you forgive first, and then you see if the other party is amicable to make up for some of your loss. Don’t pretend, it is you have forgiven already, regardless the other party’s subsequent offer or lack of offer to make up for some of your loss. There is no such thing as you go back and undo your forgiveness, when you are NOT satisfied with the other party’s offer; if you say you are going to do that, it only goes to show you have NOT forgiven, by grace, in the first place.


“But what if I now am short or I can ill-afford the sacrifice?” What we can do, is to go to God, about this sacrifice or loss; petition as necessary to God, like “God, I still need the money; can you provide, or something”. In showing mercy, we are showing God to people.

If you are “short”, as a result, go to God for the “short/justice”. No revenge, please. Now, there are times, when you get nothing, NOT even the “admittance of wrong”, what do you do? Again, bring it before the Lord; tell God you forgive, still (and you do that, in your heart, you forgive); as to the justice bit, you have to leave it to God.

You have to picture yourself as a slave (metaphor), and slave does NOT on his own go fight for justice, he leaves it to his master to do as he (the master) thinks fit. The slave can expect the master, to meanwhile, to care for him, the slave (like in example above, get the slave treated or help the slave with medical bill). And it is really, the slave has to leave it with the master; it may end up that the master does NOT want to pursue the matter (for any reason), still the slave has to be contented with that. When we understand God well, from the Word, we know there is justice with God, for His Word said that justice and righteousness is the foundation of His throne (or rule) (Ps 89:14a); we just leave it to Him. Maybe God would do something right away, maybe, leave it for another time, or He may “cancel the debt of the other party” on the account of something else.

As to we seeing injustice done to others, without being specific, it is we are NOT to simply turn a blind eye. Talk to God, ask for His wisdom how you can help, so that the victimised ones can be helped. Ask God to come into the situation to turn the tide against injustice.

I have written sometime back, an article on the “by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head” (from Romans 12:20), what it implied, and so on. Those interested can read it, here: http://high-expressions.blogspot.sg/2013/06/in-doing-this-you-will-heap-burning.html

Anthony Chia, high.expressions