Grace or Justice?

And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.

For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. John 1:16-17

I don’t want to one day stand before God and feel ashamed. That is something I am praying desperately about. I want to one day look into my Lord’s eyes and feel completely one with Him. But I know that in order for that to happen, I must lose my life somehow (Matthew 16:25).

One way in which I know I need to lose my life is to be honest with myself and with my fellow man. Brutally so, if necessary.

The world is increasingly becoming a dangerous place to live in and as a result there are many challenges facing us as children of God. We have choices to make, and the options are not in our favor.

There is the issue of crime, for example. In recent times, for instance, the U.S. has become one of the most violent peace-time nations on earth and the atrocities that are committed in this great country beat all sense out of anyone. Crimes of unspeakable horror are being carried out on a daily basis and people’s lives are being senselessly destroyed.

(In all modesty, let me say that such brutal, sustained violence as we hear of in the U.S. is simply not there in my country and such things appear all the more unbelievable to us.)

As a result of this violence there has been a raging debate about the death penalty and about the administration of justice in general. Many of these crimes committed in the U.S. are so horrific you wonder how the perpetrator could be allowed to live for even one second. (In Africa we have what we call ‘mob justice’. That means that before the cops arrive, the ‘death penalty’ is quickly administered to the guy by an angry mob, and the cops find case closed. In fact, in some cases the cops are known to deliberately delay their arrival so they can give the mob enough time to finish the administration of ‘justice’!

And if the villain is caught by the police themselves he will see hell long before he arrives in court. That is ‘justice’, Africa-style.)

But I am made to understand that in the U.S. the guy is handcuffed peacefully, taken to prison and fed like a king, and given all the creature comforts he needs, all of which is paid for by the victim’s family’s tax money. Then the case will drag on for eternity and even after a verdict of “Guilty” has been handed to the fellow, anything is likely to happen, including the all-too-often possibility of him coming back into society soon enough to sow more terror. That rankles, to say the least.

I don’t need to go too deep inside my heart to discover that I support the death penalty or any equally deterrent sentence, and this where my problem really is. To be brutally honest, with such cases I am at heart firmly for “A tooth for a tooth”. I can’t really say I hate these murderers, rapists, etc, but I know I feel angry enough to support at least something to be done to them.

If we were to vote on it, I probably might cast my vote against the death penalty, although in doing so I would simply be appeasing my conscience as a Christian. In my heart I would be screaming, “Hang them!”

I know that this is an attitude of law with me and I know I have carried it for a long time. It is not a reflection of grace, no matter which angle I look at it with. Grace has power beyond any sin.

But I also know that God has been dealing with my heart more and more, as I constantly get to hear of all the violence going on in the world today.

God did not scream, “Hang them!” even though they killed His Only Begotten Son. Ever since the death of His Son, God has been running after the perpetrators of His Son’s murder (that’s all of us, by the way), not to commit them to the electric chair, but to show them forgiveness, mercy and love. And we all know where God found some of us – hiding in the gutter and rebellious to the core! He did not flinch to wade into the foul-smelling mire we were in, pull us out, wash us clean, forgive us completely and, yes, “made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).What incredible grace!

The Bible says that we who have been shown such mercy by God are to be “perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Mat. 5:48). There is a price involved in arriving at that perfection.

I have had to humble myself and see how wanting I am in the area of grace. I know that God has helped me in many areas in my life, and I need to do Him justice by admitting that. And yet, I know I am not through with being a man of the law yet. My ‘law problem’ does not stop with my ire at the murderers and rapists in far-away U.S. but it seeps through right to my doorstep, in my dealings with the people that I interact with daily.

Now that the Lord and I are on it, though, I know I will arrive somewhere. I am not pessimistic, I have faith. I also have a goal. My goal is to carry within me a heart of total forgiveness and total grace, the same heart that God Himself had for me. It is a tall order indeed, with the way things are in the world today. But again, if anything is not a challenge in our lives, it is not worth it.

The Lord wants us to become men of grace. Law was done with by the arrival of Jesus. Jesus did not bring law. In fact when He came the law was already there. And He came to abolish it because of its inability to deal with sin. He brought grace and truth instead. Where did Jesus bring these things? He brought them into our hearts.

There are many men and women who wouldn’t be where they are today if God’s grace was not operational today. Brutal, violent men in our generation have experienced the indescribable generosity of God, and changed.

The question each one needs to ask themselves is: Where are we in all this? What is our role in the administration, not of ‘justice’, but of grace in the world today?

I would not in any way underestimate the pain and destruction that brutal people inflict on others. But again, it is all the more reason that we need to carry the heart of grace.

Grace is to be found only at the cross. As we take up our cross and follow Christ, we find in us the indescribable grace needed in a world such as ours.

“And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.”

Amen.

 

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5 thoughts on “Grace or Justice?

  1. Great video and post. When you write “the law was done away with” I observe Jesus said, “Don’t ever think that I came to set aside Moses’ Teachings or the Prophets. I didn’t come to set them aside but to make them come true” (Matt 5:17 GW). I know we do not live by law, nor are we saved by law, but because of Jesus the law becomes the way in which we conduct ourselves for justice. Moses’ Teachings are like the house rules.
    Yet how do we live by grace and still deal with laws like “eye for en eye…”? The problem that we have to ask the question at all, is that justice is rarely done. Justice like God’s was done in the open (not in a closed courtroom) with the entire community there to witness that the process followed was fair, sound, careful. God even set up refuge cities for those times when emotions would conclude judgment before justice had been properly pursued.
    So we do our best to protect the vulnerable. We insist on careful justice. We act from deep compassion and not revenge. Wow, what a responsibility!!
    Peace

    • I agree David, that the issue of justice is a very sensitive matter and I would not think that I have the answer to even half the question to it. But as Christians we must address these issues, and we see in the Bible that Jesus set incredibly high standards for us to live out a life of grace in this evil world. Only death to the flesh can truly set us free to serve God even as Jesus served Him when He was here on earth. (Actually Jesus died on the cross for us, not for Himself, for He was already God and in all His life here on earth no sin was found in Him). Our responsibility, as you say, is awesome!

      • I agree Jesus set high standards that only The Spirit can achieve through us. Yet we set our aim for that great target, all praise to Christ!
        Peace

  2. Excellently written, my sweet brother. You always write from your big, kind, and truthful heart. You are so very right about the USA…we have a screwed up government, laws and so called justice. While we need to have grace we also have to come up with a way to live in a society that has major problems because they are inching God out of EVERYTHING. A nation that has gotten rid of God in every way possible will find itself in a bad way hence the violence and all kinds of unspeakable acts. While the death penalty seems barbaric. I often think of how the offender brutally tortured and killed his/her unsuspecting victim and then gets to go to jail and find Christ….what about the victim, who hardly had time to “get right with God?” There is no justice. Only God can exact justice and it will come. We are promised that, yet, there must be laws and punishment for society to live together and at peace. There are too many problems here in good ole America that needs fixin’!!

    One place you will find God is in the prisons. I know people from my church who are very active in the prison ministry. There is hope for criminals to be introduced to Christ and have a life-changing experience. The video you show is proof of that. So many testimonies come from those who have completely changed. The Apostle Paul was one. Much love to you, dear brother. 🙂

    • Yes, Dale, there’s the dilemma – truly “screwed-up laws”, as you say – and the victim is left to bite the dust. But I believe with all my heart that once we understand fully the grace of God, we will have a place in our hearts for these murderers and rapists. The interesting thing with God is that He is so focused on only one man to change… I have to admit there are some things that I just don’t understand about God.

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