God’s justice will prevail

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Psalm 64


Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the throng of evildoers,
who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows…
But God shoots His arrow at them; they are wounded suddenly.
They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them…
(Psalm 64:3-4, 7-8a)

Have you ever had someone speak lies about you?  How about speak truths about you that should never have been shared with more than a few?

Have you ever felt like people are working against you, plotting to harm you, or even just not respecting you the way you wish they would?

Here’s a comforting reminder: we reap what we sow.

That person who continues to spread false accusations?  The day will come when their lies will catch up with them.

That person who betrayed a confidence and spread things around they shouldn’t have?  The day will come when they experience the same thing.

Those people who’ve been working against you through gossip and scheming and disrespect?  The kind of toxic atmosphere they have created will one day come back upon them.

We reap what we sow.

Here’s the thing.  As followers of Jesus, we are called to pray for our enemies and do good for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44).  Yet, that doesn’t mean that we are giving a “free pass” for evil, or asking God to let them escape the consequences of their actions.  In fact, sometimes the most loving thing to do for someone is make sure that their consequences catch up with them, because that may be the only way they’ll ever learn.

The reality is that although God is love, He is also just, and He explicitly says in His Word that He will not be mocked, and that whatever a person sows, they will reap (Galatians 6:7).

That means that when you are slandered, spoken ill of and betrayed, you can continue to act in a Christ-like way without taking things into your own hands.  How?  Because of the hope of this truth: God’s justice will prevail.

-Pastor Phillip

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And Justice for All (pt2)

How do we “reconcile” justice and mercy for those who hurt us?

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. – 2 Corinthians 5:16-19

Years ago I owned a small business, and experienced first hand the long labor of constantly having to reconcile accounts. Looking at cash receipts and register tape, accounting software reports and bank statements, it was a process that demanded focus and patience, and there was a right way to reconcile the books and plenty of wrong ways, as well.

God is also in the reconciling business. We read this passage and typically think about individual relationships. We see “reconciliation” as the process by which two people are brought into harmony with one another as they should have been all along, and that is totally correct.

But there is another facet of “reconciliation” in God’s economy.

The Bible is clear that the blood of Christ is offered to all, freely, graciously, without respect to personal history or nationality. It says in this passage that “in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them,” and we see that those who accept His offer are then “in Christ,” made new and made right with God. Their trespasses are not counted against them and they who were once in opposition to His holiness and justice are brought into harmony with it through the cross.

Those who refuse to be “in Christ” are also included in God’s reconciliation, but in a different way. They are in opposition to His holiness and justice, and must be brought in line with it. If the offer of Christ’s blood is refused, then God will reconcile them to His holiness through their own.

A desire for revenge and personal satisfaction has no place in the heart of a follower of Jesus. May we not lose sight, though, of the demand for justice from a holy God, and the privilege and right for His established authorities to be the ones to carry it out.

(Note: this post is part two of two. Read part one here.)

And Justice for All (Reflections on 9/11 and the cross)

I’ll never forget that day, and neither will you.

They say that when dawn breaks over new-fallen snow, it’s like waking up to a whole new world… but I live in Florida.

The only “new world” I’ve woken up to was heralded not by a carpet of fresh white winter, but the billowing black smoke of a burning building on my television, the opening salvo of what would become “The War on Terror.”

I was nineteen years old, working at our local newspaper, and remember just sitting there in the small apartment I shared with a friend, staring blankly at images that will forever be seared in my memory as the flash-point of a hatred that had been building for decades, and continues to this day.  They were not lost, lonely souls who hijacked planes and plowed them into civilian buildings, they were evil, and evil must be stopped.

And yet, what of mercy?  What of forgiveness?  What of the cross of Christ?

Ponder this passage of Scripture for a moment…

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 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.” 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.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.   – Romans 12:17-21

My flesh, my “humanness” demanded vengeance that day and in the seasons that followed.  Perhaps you felt the same way, a sense of hurt, of wrong, of vulnerability that wanted to “get even” with those who had done such a vile thing to our country.  But that is not the way of Christ.

God’s call on the Christian is that “if possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”  The way of Jesus is to turn the other cheek, to forgive when wronged, and to trust God to work things out in the end.  This is the way of Jesus…

For individuals.

Look now at what Paul writes in the next chapter of Romans, as he takes us out of the realm of individual retribution and into the arena of national and governmental responsibility.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.   – Romans 13:1-4

Methods and motives aside, there are those who would say the very idea that a nation should go to war against their enemies is a wicked thing.  They would point to passages like the first one that speak of doing good to all and not avenging ourselves, but to take such a stance is simplistic and naive, and is not actually faithful to the text.

Look again at Romans 12:19, “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.'”  What Paul is doing is writing to individual believers and telling them to “leave room for God’s wrath” and not take matters into their own hands.  Then in the next chapter he clarifies what “leaving room” actually means, that it is the responsibility of nations and states and collective governments to participate in the righting of wrongs and the dealing of justice in the world.  Do we do so with flawed methods and questionable motives?  Yes.  But to lay down arms in the face of evil is to not only be foolish in terms of our national interest, but is to thumb our nose at God’s justice and tell Him, “send fire and brimstone or something; we’ll sit this one out.”

As individual believers, God’s call on us is to pray for our enemies, all of them, in the hopes that God would bring them to repentance and reconciliation through Christ.  After all, while most of us would say we’ve never done something so vile as mass murder and terror, in comparison to a perfectly holy God, we are all just as vile as them.  The forgiveness of Christ is given to us, so that we as people can give it to others.

At the same time, the justice of God must be upheld, and it is given to mankind to carry it out as best we can.  Again, see how Paul writes in Romans 13:1 that “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”  Our patriotism can serve His plan and purpose, provided we pursue it properly.

One final thing…

(To be continued.)