Category Archives: Divine Justice vs Human Justice

Revenge Is Sweet, Or So They Say

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That I can remember, no one has ever asked me if I’ve wanted to exact revenge against my father for everything he did to me when I was a child. But if anyone were to ask me, my answer would be an unqualified, categorical no.

I don’t remember ever wanting revenge against him or any of the people who hurt me. It’s certainly not because I’m holy or anything like that. I’m definitely no saint. I mess up on an extremely regular basis, and 1 John 1:9 is a well-worn and much-loved verse for me,

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ~ 1 John 1:9, NKJV.

Another favorite, and something I cry out to God all the time, is,

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? ~ Romans 7:24, NKJV.

Thankfully Romans 7:24 is followed immediately by 7:25,

Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. ~ Romans 7:25, NLT.

And again straightaway after that comes Romans 8:1,

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. ~ Romans 8:1, NLT.

I apologize for that little rabbit trail, but I’m trying to make a point. I am a sinner because I was born in sin, and because I was born into a world that belongs to Satan. Thank God, Jesus rescued me out of that world by dying on the cross for me, so that now I’m forgiven, and I no longer belong to the devil, I belong to God. But I still commit sins, even though I desperately don’t want to. That was my whole point in quoting the above verses.

Avenging a wrong committed against someone is something that really should be left in God’s hands. God is the only one who knows what really happened, the only one who knows the true motivations of the people involved, and the only one capable of dispensing perfect justice to all the parties connected to the situation.

Seems to me, if someone gets revenge, they’re trying to get justice for a situation on their own, taking control of it out of God’s hands. And while God does know all the facts, the person taking justice into their own hands will only know about the situation from his own perspective, which will always be skewed, because there’s no way any human being can know everything about what happened. Only God can know that. That’s why God says,

Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD. ~ [quoted from Deuteronomy 32:35, NLT]; Romans 12:19, NLT.

I think people take vengeance into their own hands because they get impatient. They don’t want to wait for God to do it (if they believe He exists), or the legal system (if they trust it). Nowadays people don’t trust the legal system, or if they do, it moves too slowly for them, so they decide they have to do it for themselves.

If you think the legal system is slow, God is slower. You have to wait for the person you want justice for to die before you’ll get it. That’s why I say people get impatient. They don’t want to wait for God’s justice. Now, sometimes God will act through the legal system, but oftentimes He chooses to wait until the Final Judgment after the person dies.

I don’t know why that is, and it’s probably not for us, or specifically me, to know, at least not this side of Heaven ~ God’s sovereignty, and His higher ways (Isaiah 55:9-10), and all that ~ though sometimes I really wish God would clue me in.

But He doesn’t, and I have to trust ~ I choose to trust ~ that God is better at being God than I am, something I already knew, by the way, as I wrote about in a previous post (I Would Make a Terrible God). Because, as I said in that post, being God is God’s job, not mine.

So I’ll let God do the avenging for me. I’ve done the best I can to forgive those who need to be forgiven, and certainly there are many on whom I could get revenge, but I firmly believe that’s God’s job, as borne out by Scripture. I’ll let God be God and do my avenging for me. It makes my life much easier. I already have enough to think about without adding that!

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. ~ Matthew 6:34, KJV.

As Far As the East Is From the West

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I was driving to a friend’s house the other night (about 3 a.m. on May 28th), and listening to the radio as I was driving. I forget if it was a song, or something the DJ said, but whatever it was, it got me thinking about the phrase, “as far as the east is from the west”, which is a phrase used in Psalm 103,

For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. ~ Psalm 103:11-12, NKJV.

So then I started thinking of all these questions: can you reach the east if you start in the west? Can you reach the west if you start in the east? I mean, you can reach the North Pole if you start from the South Pole, and vice versa, so why can’t you reach the east from the west? The problem is, there is no East Pole, nor is there a West Pole to use as starting points, as there is with the North and the South Poles.

So maybe being able to physically travel from west to east, or from east to west, isn’t the point of the idea.

What is the point, then?

When I asked myself that question, I started thinking about the images that come to mind when I think about the phrase, “as far as the east is from the west…”. Things like the infinitude of God’s love, and the limitless quality of His mercy. Most particularly, however, the image that comes to mind is that of Christ on the cross with His arms stretched out from east to west. It says in the Book of John,

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. ~ John 15:13, NKJV.

Jesus Christ’s whole purpose for stepping down from the Majesty on High and coming to earth was to go to the cross and take humanity’s place, to take the punishment for our sin. That’s how much God loved us, that He would plan, with His Son and the Holy Spirit, from the foundation of the world, to deal with the problem of sin by sending Jesus to earth to take our place and assume our punishment. And a terrible punishment it was, because our sin was terrible. It still is, but Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient to take care of all of it for all time.

To me, this is beauty personified.

Oh my! When I think of that I’m left speechless! I am a sinful person. I’m full of pride, and I make mistakes all the time, every day. One of my many favorite verses in the Bible is from Romans 7,

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? ~ Romans 7:24, NKJV.

I can so well relate to the Apostle Paul here! The preceding verses describe my day-to-day, sometimes minute-to-minute existence. Romans 7 portrays it so well,

I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. ~ Romans 7:19, NLT.

It’s almost as if God was watching me when He told Paul to write that passage of Scripture! And yet, He loves me and wants me, regardless of my sinfulness.

I thank God for that everyday and in every way.

Revenge Is God’s Job, Not Man’s.

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I think I know why vigilante justice is wrong. It occurred to me that vigilante justice is man’s attempt to get revenge when God said specifically that vengeance was His responsibility. It says in the Book of Romans,

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.” ~ Romans 12:19, ESV.

And Paul is quoting Moses in the Book of Deuteronomy when he says that (Deuteronomy 32:35).

That says to me that revenge is God’s job, not ours. I often wonder if the reason people practice vigilante justice is because they either don’t believe God exists, so they feel they have to get justice themselves, or they don’t trust that He’ll get the justice they want, or need, or think they deserve for that crime. Either way they’re wresting control of when justice is served out of God’s hands, and into their own hands.

When someone has a vested interest in seeing a particular person convicted for a crime, regardless of that person’s actual guilt or innocence, if the person is acquitted then the one with the personal stake in his conviction can be a prime candidate for vigilante justice because he didn’t get his desired outcome.

God knows the whole story. He can see the whole picture, whereas we only know what we can see and hear and feel. We will never know another person’s motivation for what they did, and we won’t usually know if that person is lying, unless they break down and confess that they lied.

What if the person we’re pursuing is actually innocent of the crime we’re accusing him/her of? Even though we think we know who committed the crime, we don’t know everything, and we might be wrong. There’s no such thing as a perfect murder where God is concerned because God knows everything, EVERYTHING, and even if the real killer is never apprehended here on earth, God still knows who did it. That person will still have to face God’s justice and judgment in the end, regardless of what happens here on earth.

I know it’s hard to trust God about something so personal and painful as when someone dear to you has been attacked and/or murdered. I’ve been a victim of serious crime myself, and I know how difficult it is to trust God when you’ve been deeply wounded.

You might be saying, “How can I trust God when He allowed me to be so savagely hurt?” But I’ve come to know that it was God who protected me from the worst of the abuse. If God hadn’t been there I wouldn’t have survived. I would be dead, because those who were abusing me would have killed me, or I would have succeeded in one of my suicide attempts. And you might respond, “But if God is as powerful and as good as everyone says He is, then why was I abused at all? Why didn’t He stop the abuse from happening altogether?”

Unfortunately, there are some questions for which there just isn’t a satisfactory answer this side of Heaven, and this is one of them. The problem of evil is one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith, and it’s also one of the main reasons people give for doubting God’s existence. The argument usually goes, if God is omnipotent then He could have stopped the evil from happening, and since He didn’t then He must not be omnipotent. And by the same token, if He’s completely good, then He wouldn’t have allowed the evil to happen in the first place, and since the evil did happen, then He must not be completely good.

My response to those arguments is that the people proposing them aren’t considering all the factors. There is the all-important detail of man’s free will. God created every single human being with a free will, and He cannot violate that will in any way at any time, otherwise it wouldn’t be free. God desires humans who will freely choose to fellowship with Him, and He can only get people who will make that choice by creating them with a completely free will. And that means a free will to reject Him just as much as to choose Him.

I can say that God is absolutely faithful, and He solved the problem of evil once for all at the cross. Colossians 2 says,

He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, He disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by His victory over them on the cross. ~ Colossians 2:14-15, NLT.

In addition, it says in the Book of Revelation,

I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. ~ Revelation 1:18, KJV.

Jesus triumphed over Satan at the cross, and took the keys of hell and death away from him at that time, and as a consequence, death has lost its sting, as it says so well in 1 Corinthians,

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:55-57, ESV.

Even though Christ dealt with Satan at the cross, making a show of him openly as it says in Colossians, we won’t see the complete outworking of that victory until Christ returns at His Second Coming.

I think I’ll stop now. I’ve covered a lot of ground here, and meandered around a bit. I probably could’ve made this into two posts, especially because it got kind of long, plus I ended up on a different topic than I started out on, but I’m not sure I want to. Maybe I can tie it all together.

When someone is seeking their own justice, which is basically what vigilante justice is, they’re committing murder because they don’t trust the criminal justice system. Trying to exact your own justice is the wrong way to go about it. Killing another human being is always wrong no matter what, except if it’s in self defense.

God must be the judge, not man, and He works through the criminal justice system, as flawed as it is because it’s run by human beings. We need to trust that the truth will come out in God’s timing. You can’t hide anything from God. It says in the Book of Numbers,

But if you fail to keep your word, then you will have sinned against the LORD, and you may be sure that your sin will find you out. ~ Numbers 32:23, NLT.

So that’s all, folks!

Monsters Aren’t Monsters. They’re Evil Humans.

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When someone commits a particularly heinous and horrific crime, especially if he perpetrates a whole series of extremely monstrous and evil acts, people ofttimes refer to that person as a monster. But I don’t think such a one is a monster because, it seems to me, giving them such a designation makes them less than human, and it feels like that somehow excuses their behavior.

I think rather they’re fully human, just as human as any other person on earth. The difference is, they’re giving place to the lowest, most sordid, wicked, degenerate, and evil desires that a human being can have. Rather than allowing God to reign in their minds, they’re giving Satan free rein. Rather than being a mix of evil and good, as most people are, they are entirely and perfectly evil, with no good in them, or at the most, very little good.

I’m not sure there is a human being who is perfectly evil with absolutely no good, because it’s hard for me to think about giving up on anyone. God didn’t give up on me when I was at my worst. Seems to me the only one who is entirely evil with absolutely no good is Satan himself, but I could be wrong about that. There might be others who’ve sold their souls to him, I suppose.

Another aspect of this, though the connection may be somewhat tenuous, is when people commit murder and then kill themselves. I’ve always thought people who commit such crimes perpetrate them and then commit suicide so they don’t have to face justice. But I think they’re only thinking about human justice, without considering divine justice, which is much more sure and all-encompassing, because God knows all the facts of the case.

Seems to me such people have, at the very least, a poor understanding of who God is, if they believe He exists at all. If they truly understood God they would know that it would be better to face justice in human courts than to have deal with the consequences of God’s divine justice. In a human court they might be able to get away with lying, if they’re good enough at it, plus they might be able to hide their true motivations before a human judge, whereas that’s not possible with God. God knows our deepest motivations, and the thoughts and intents of our hearts. You can’t put anything past God.

But there could be another reason why people commit suicide after they perpetrate these heinous crimes: maybe they all of a sudden realize what they’ve done, and they find it so unacceptable that they decide they don’t deserve to live any longer. In other words, they’ve created an extreme example of internal cognitive dissonance by their actions, so they kill themselves, thus exacting capital punishment on themselves before anyone else has time to carry it out.

However, in punishing themselves, they’re proving once again that they don’t understand God’s character at all. It says in James, Chapter 2,

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. ~ James 2:12-13, NIV.

What that says to me is that while God is a god of judgment, He is also a god of mercy, and if we are merciful in our dealings with other people, He will allow mercy to reign over judgment in His relationship with us.

These people have also shown, it seems to me, that they believe they’ve committed the unpardonable sin, or at least it’s unpardonable to them, and they think it deserves the death penalty. Seems to me they’re saying that they know better than God, which sounds a little arrogant to me, but what do I know.

I for one would much rather have God’s mercy than His judgment, and God is far smarter than I am as far as whether my sins are forgivable or not, so I think I’ll let Him make those decisions!