There are two voices that speak to us. One speaks from earth and the other one speaks from heaven. One voice finds its source from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the other one from the Tree of Life. One wants retributive justice, an “eye for an eye” that demands “blood” from the perpetrator; the other gave its own blood and offers mercy and grace to everyone. And depending on how your heart is oriented, you will be more influenced by one than the other. This is why it’s critically important we understand which voice we’ve been listening to, especially in the turbulent times we find ourselves living in today.
I really like how the Passion Translation juxtaposes these two voices in Hebrews 12:24:
24 And we have come to Jesus who established a new covenant with his blood sprinkled upon the mercy seat; blood that continues to speak from heaven, “forgiveness,” a better message than Abel’s blood that cries from the earth, “justice.” (Heb.12:24 TPT*)
Notice that the voice from heaven speaks “forgiveness” and the voice from earth cries out for “justice.” The blood of Abel speaks of retribution, but heaven says “I will pay with my own blood and all is forgiven!”
12 For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.” (Heb.8:12 NIV*)
As other translations put it, the blood of Jesus speaks “a better word than the blood of Abel” (Heb.12:24 NKJV*)
Heaven says, “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).
Jesus rebuked his own disciples for wanting to call fire down on people who weren’t following Him (Luke 9:51-56). They were listening to the wrong voice.
55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. (Luke 9:55 NKJV*)
Jesus says this to people who value being religious over being in relationship: “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’” (Matt.9:13).
While the “social justice” movement is very popular today, especially with young people, and I have no doubt their intention is well-meaning, the fact is, it rarely brings about real justice or peace. It can actually escalate the anger, turn us into vigilantes and angry mobs, dividing us into victims and perpetrators, all of which only exacerbates the problem.
I talked about the superior nature of forgiveness to that of retributive justice in my post, “God’s glory revealed in a Dallas courtroom.” Why is this so? Because it stops vengeance dead it its tracks with mercy and overpowers malice with love.
In contrast, this world system we live in operates on “you hit me, I hit you back harder!” And we’ve have all been indoctrinated by this earthly voice. For instance, in movies we cheer for the vigilante hero who makes the people we hate pay. We also find that most murders committed have something to do with revenge. And while this retaliatory mindset may give us some temporary satisfaction it does not give us real justice or lasting peace.
This is actually the opposite of Jesus’ message that we find in His Sermon on the Mount (Matt.5-7), which is where He taught us what it looks like to think and act like heaven.
How is earthly justice not true justice? If you killed a loved one of mine and were legally punished for it, it doesn’t bring my loved one back, no matter how severely you’re punished for the crime.
However, God’s justice is restorative, offering forgiveness and restoration for both the perpetrator and the victim. And, with the resurrection, I DO get my loved one back! That’s true justice.
Beloved, the wrath of man does NOT produce the righteousness of God (James 1:20). Yet, we seem to think it does. And when we seek revenge (or reparation, etc.), no matter how justified we may think we are, we end up poisoning our own soul and putting ourselves in bondage.
Jesus taught us about this in the story of the unforgiving servant (Matt.18:23-35). Even though this servant was forgiven much by his master (like we are in Christ!), he would not forgive the relatively insignificant debt of his fellow servant. This was the result:
34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. (Matt.18:34 NJJV*)
When we don’t have forgiveness that comes from the heart, we go into bondage.
This is why it must ultimately start with receiving God’s forgiveness for ourselves, because we cannot genuinely offer something from the heart that we have not received. We’ll just continue projecting our wounded soul onto others until we ourselves are healed.
Beloved, which voice is orienting your heart today? Is it one that demands payback and retribution for injustices, or is it the voice that speaks a better word—the one from heaven that says: YOU.ARE.FORGIVEN!
As ambassadors for Christ, our message is the voice from heaven. We have no right to represent His kingdom in any other way! We must repent from stubborn pride that demands judgment and let God heal our wounded hearts so that we can truly love.
Our message brings people back to God and to each other; it restores and brings true peace and hope. We don’t speak retribution; we speak restoration. We need to remember this as we interact with this broken world.
19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Cor.5:19 NIV*)