The need for justice is a powerful motivator. People naturally want the scales balanced, things set right, order restored, etc. We are made in the image of God and the Lord certainly is a God of justice and right-setting. That being said, at some point, a quest for justice can run away from us, and “justice” becomes “vengeance” without us even realizing. The only way to temper that temptation is to hold a need for justice in one hand and a desire for grace in the other. It’s reasonable, understandable, and to a great extent, encouraged, to seek for justice, but at some point…there must be grace.
“but he/she/they started it!”
I understand, and wrongs must be rightened. Sometimes they are rightened by legal means; actions are supposed to have consequences, after all etc. And when consequences don’t come, it’s a wonderful thing to be a citizen of a country where our voice is (supposed to be) heard, so that we can peaceably protest and call on those elected to represent us to enact the change that the people desire. All that is true and all should support that. Even if we didn’t live in such a country, being people of God affords us the avenue of prayer where we can appeal for justice to be done for us.
There is a line, however, and when crossed, a peaceable protest demanding justice can turn into an angry mob demanding vengeance. When that happens it’s up to God’s people to take the sometimes unpopular position that “grace must be championed” over what a mob calls “justice.”
Grace is amazing because it is purely selfless, even to the point of self-harming. Grace by its nature is unjust, except in this case it is voluntary injustice, done against self. When I extend grace to another, by nature I am lessening myself, lowering myself, and potentially allowing myself to be harmed in order for you, the one who has done the harm, to be forgiven. There’s nothing fair or just about that. That’s why the refrain “but he/she/they started it!” doesn’t factor into grace. It certainly factors into justice, but grace isn’t justice. Grace isn’t about what’s fair because, again, there’s nothing fair about grace.
Here’s what fair looks like: We sinned against God and thus it is fair, just, and right for Him to separate Himself from us (hell).
Here’s what grace looks like: We sinned against God so God sent Jesus to die for us, buying our forgiveness with His blood. Now imagine that: Jesus was killed, and God used His death to be the means to forgive the very people who killed Jesus, and forgive them of the crime of killing Jesus! That’s incredible grace, is it not? And yet, as incredible as it is, as seemingly impossible a standard as that is to live up to, the Man Himself tell us…
“love one another as I have loved you”
There are people in this country who have been wronged, hurt, mistreated, and killed. It is right and proper to ask that justice be done on behalf of the individuals that have been hurt, and against the individuals who did the hurting. After all, half the psalms boil down to the phrase “God please smite my enemies for their unjust ways.” I’m not saying we should not seek justice against wrongs; I just want us to be cautious that our need for justice doesn’t override the call for God’s people to be merciful as He was merciful, forgiving as He was forgiving, and grace-filled as He was grace-filled.
When wrongs are done, it is natural to want those wrongs to be set right, to seek out, arrest, and punish the ones that have done wrong. That is reasonable, and within reason I will stand with those seeking for justice to be done. What I will not do, however, is allow myself to get swept up in a politically-charged crusade, or get pulled into a mob mentality, where various other wrongs are done in the name of justice, or done by those whose bloodlust and anger isn’t satiated even when justice is done.
At some point there must be grace.