How can God be just?
This past week, a terror attack in Belgium rocked the world. As the bereaved mourned their dead in the city square, cries for justice went up among angry young men who wish to impose their own form of justice upon the perpetrators. Easter Sunday saw another attack, this time on children and families at an amusement park in Pakistan.
As we watch these stories unfold, our hearts break. We clamor for justice. At least, we think that is what we want.
But where does the human version of justice draw the line? But what if the victim of injustice becomes the perpetrator and commits an equally heinous act? Do we ask for justice for thieves who act out of desperation and addiction? What about people who lie to their employers or cheat on their income tax? How about justice for parents who scream in anger at their children? Or children who rebel against their parents? Do we really want justice for these things or do they fall a little too close to home?
What if justice were to fall upon us or those we love?
This justice that shows up in Revelation 16 makes us uncomfortable. How could a loving God appear so vindictive and angry that He would destroy the world he made? It is a question worth wrestling over.
Humanly speaking, the best judge in the land is incapable of fully righteous judgement. Romans 3:10 explains the state of our righteousness. It does not exist.
Our BSF teaching leader used the example of a pilot who cannot always discern the horizon when flying from visual cues. Errors in judging whether the plane is flying right side up or upside down can be fatal. Our perception of the horizon is skewed by our own biases and desires. None of us is capable of figuring out the exact point of reference for justice. We have no clue and we don’t have to look far to see how seldom anything resembling real justice gets meted out.
That is why we need someone with precise objectivity. God’s perfect character, like the horizon for the pilot, informs his perfect justice which will come when the time is right.
Perhaps what we view as injustice is actually God’s mercy, allowing opportunity for the most egregious of offenders to repent before they face final judgement. Not that they deserve God’s mercy; none of us do. Even if we like to think our “lesser” sins qualify us for mercy that murderers, thieves and rapists are not entitled to, God is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
Even the apostle Paul had been a full participant in injustice. He counted himself as the worst of offenders (1 Timothy 1:15). It is a good thing I didn’t get to be judge and jury before Paul experienced God’s mercy. As a recipient of God’s grace Paul has been sharing his testimony through his words ever since, even centuries beyond his human life.
God’s mercy and justice are the great equalizers. His completely fair and righteous justice will apply to every infraction no matter how small and His mercy, through Jesus, is available to every offender who would repent and believe no matter how great the sin. That means me, you and the terrorist.