Tragedy has a way of releasing the inner ideologies of people that normally would go unstated. After terrorists leveled New York’s Twin Towers and struck the Pentagon, we hear many voices emerging. One voice cries: “Revenge!” It acknowledges the pain of being wounded and seethes with anger. “Blow away the enemy! Make sure he never strikes us again.”
There are many problems with advocating revenge. First, it is based in pride—I’m going to take action in my power to fix the problem. God hates pride. The Apostle Paul wrote: “Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
Second, it easily becomes misguided because its main purpose is to satiate personal injury. Stirred by a bitter brew, many will needlessly suffer. Rather than wait until the terrorists are punished, anyone who looks like an Arab is targeted. It is as ignorant to lump all Muslims with extremists as it is to depict Christians as Ku Klux Klansmen.
Third, revenge begs the question, “when is enough, enough!”
Another voice passionately rises from the chair of contemplation. Palms extend outward symbolizing the need for tolerance. “Don’t let anymore people die! We must exhaust all means aside from force to achieve peace.” Those who refuse the application of force cite Paul’s admonition not to take revenge as well as Jesus’ words: “But I tell you, don’t resist an evil doer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Matthew 5:39). The case for mercy seems strong.
Yet, the voice of tolerance also is problematic. First, in my opinion, pacifists have taken Matthew 5:39 out of context. They use a verse that Jesus applies to the individual who would follow Him and make it into a formula for national policy. Jesus clearly teaches that the reason we are to endure persecution, insult and injury is connected to our love for Him. Likewise, while Paul admonishes us not to repay evil with evil, he further teaches us in Romans 13:1-3 that we are to submit to our governing authorities. Implied in this instruction is the centrality of the law.
The law remains in effect (because of man’s sinful condition—see Mat.5:17). Our authorities prescribe upholding the law through punishing by necessary force, those who engage in evil actions. Tolerance that excludes amercing wickedness invites anarchy! Proponents of nonviolence damage the real meaning of godly love by divorcing behavior from consequences! Consider that God in His mercy for us as sinners still exacted punishment for our sins by allowing His Son to brutally die on a cross for us. Our loving God does not ignore sin. From His justness comes forth justice.
Thankfully, there are voices calling for justice—upholding what is morally right and valid according to the law. Until Jesus returns and establishes His universally effective authority, each nation’s rulers govern according to laws established for self-preservation. Therefore, if a country is attacked and its innocent people are murdered, that country is morally obligated to defend its citizens using the appropriate force necessary to punish the true enemy and keep him from committing further atrocities.
We are not a Christian nation. If we were, we could all willingly lay down our lives before terrorist attacks knowing we would all go to heaven. We could nationally proclaim, “We love you Osama! For us to live is Christ to die is gain!” We are a secular nation that contains Christians. We need justice to preserve moral living and accountability.
"We know that the law is not meant for a righteous person, but for the lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinful, for the unholy and irreverent, for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral and homosexuals, for kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and for whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching" (1 Timothy 1:9,10).
“Now we know that whatever the law says speaks to those who are subject to the law, so that every mouth may be shut and the whole world may become subject to God’s judgment” (Romans 3:19). We need justice to honor the Judge in whom we have placed our faith!
“He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the Lord’s unfailing love” (Psalm 33:5). May God help us to act in accordance with His just will!
Proverbs 18:5--It is not good to show partiality to the guilty by perverting the justice due the innocent.
Children are innocent and love justice, while most adults are wicked and prefer mercy.—G. K. Chesterton
Where might is master, justice is servant.—German proverb
©2001 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)