Reading: Psalm 7
God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow.
Justice is the righteous expression of love. When you love someone or something, it matters to you how they are treated. And when someone you love is treated poorly, it makes you angry.
But God’s anger is not like man’s. Indeed, “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). Our anger tends toward violence and destruction, often uncalculated and wild. Our anger leaves us out of control, even though it feels like self-assertion.
But God is never out of control. The indignation that he feels is a righteous response to evil and wickedness, a settled opposition to it. And he does not plan to let the wicked go unpunished. Indeed, he is ever-ready to strike the wicked down unless they repent and turn from their ways.
That’s why we are meant to put our faith in the just vengeance of the Lord rather than to take it into our own hands. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but give place to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Romans 12:19). Instead, we are to serve our enemies, to love them and to care for them. This is to be our posture because this is how God loved us in Jesus Christ.
Christ died for those who opposed him, forgave those who hung him on the cross, who mocked him and cast lots for his clothing. He prayed for those who persecuted him. It was this kind of love that overcame the Roman soldier who was oversaw his death, one of the first Gentiles to express faith. "And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, 'Truly this man was the Son of God!'" (Mark 15:39).
When we pursue vengeance for ourselves we forget that we were included among those enemies of God for whom Jesus died. But God was patient with us, not wanting us to be condemned because he loved us. Even now when so many are crying out for justice, God forestalls not because he doesn’t care, but because he does. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
The way to bring those who commit injustice to repentance is not by enacting vengeance against them in our own behalf. Instead, the path of Christ is to love them in a self-sacrificial way, and through your faith in God’s justice to persevere under injustice. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Only faith can do that.
So pray for justice. But not your own version of it. Pray for God’s justice. The desire for justice is a righteous longing. God, too, is indignant. But the love of Jesus for us while we were still enemies compels us to pray for those who persecute us, who take pleasure in injustice and in their own power. Pray for their repentance. “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).
Father, you poured out your just judgment for my sins onto the body of Jesus Christ. His crucifixion was the just penalty for my transgressions. I am saved because of his sacrifice. Though I was an enemy, yet you loved me; a rebel, yet you took me in as a child. Render my heart humble, then, and teach me to pray for those who visit injustice on the poor and the oppressed. And grant the oppressor repentance and faith, that the glory of mercy and forgiveness would prevail over that of judgment.