The Burden of Justice

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My social media feed was filled with cries for justice this week.

A man was killed, and the suspect eluded authorities for several days.

The community would not rest until it had justice.

When I first moved to my community, I gave a young woman a ride. She was in foster care and had suffered copious abuse; however, it was something else that made her story stand out. She had gotten up one night, after being placed in foster care, and had walked down the dark hall. Light spilled out of her foster mom’s room through a door left slightly ajar. The girl peaked in and saw the woman kneeling beside the bed. Her arms were upraised.

“Oh please,” the woman prayed, “oh please, give her justice. Everything else has been taken, but you can give her justice!”

The girl looked at me. “I know who God is,” she said, “because He is the only One who can give me justice.”

Fighting the world’s injustices is too heavy a burden for our shoulders. 

Just in one community, there are many hungry, abused children. There are many battered women. There are many forgotten men who have turned to addictive behaviors to cope. There is a whole slew of government agencies to try to right the wrongs and work justice for us all. The burden is too heavy for them.

Even do-gooders and keyboard warriors are limited in the scope of vengeance they can produce, and injustice sinks us into the miry slop of depression if we take it all on our own shoulders.

It is good when God says, “Vengeance is mine. I will repay.” The burden is lifted for a moment, and then, if we are honest, there is a moment of panic as we realize that when God takes vengeance, it will also be against the injustice we have caused. 

That is terrifying.

The burden is back again, and it is heavier. How can I right the injustices I have worked with my own hands? How can I repay the debts I owe? Can I make amends before He comes?

Like Alice falling down the proverbial rabbit hole, we have no control over the burden of vengeance. Instead, we fall into it endlessly.

But wait. A gentle hand catches us and lifts us up on the Apostle Paul’s words to the 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.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink’… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

And the good news is, because God’s own gentle hand shielded us from His wrath, we can desire that even for our enemies.

“But God shows His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.”

Then, we will know who God is because He is the only one who can give us both mercy and justice.

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