Justice or forgiveness?

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*)

* All emphasis added.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 41 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
This entry was posted in Heaven on earth, Love, Sonship and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Justice or forgiveness?

  1. AfroLatino says:

    Very spot on for such a time as this! I’m not sure of the benefits of cancel culture either. We think it is justice if someone loses their livelihood just because of something ill they have said or done wrong. I sure hope we never do same in our private lives and expect to be forgiven.

    Do we really think a particular race is the problem? There are countries where they are of the same race with lots of civil wars and problems.

    It’s time we realised the real enemy and resist him.

    God bless you, Mel.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Amen! Cancel culture is just another symptom of intolerance that comes from indoctrination of political ideologies that forever polarize and separates people. The problem certainly isn’t the skin color! People are being played by the enemy like a fiddle and we, of all people, should know this and not fall into this trap. We’re supposed to bringing hope and healing to such brokenness.

  2. Lily Pierce says:

    Great point that God’s grace offers restoration, whereas retribution does not. Ours is the ministry of reconciliation. You use “justice” and “retribution” interchangably, but I myself would draw a distinction–Godly justice of standing with and helping the poor/suffering/marginalized vs. the form of justice that means vengeance. We need God to guide us if we want true “social justice” because being fueled by anger will not bring that true Godly justice. I’ve been praying lately that God would help me accomplish that balance between standing for Godly justice while being a peacemaker. I look around and see the harm in prioritizing justice without peace, and I also see the harm in prioritizing peace without justice.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Great comments, Lily. I probably should have made a stronger point and distinction between God’s justice and earthly justice. Thanks for bringing this up. 🙂

      As I mentioned, God’s justice is restorative, not retributive (my post, “God’s glory in a Dallas Courtroom” brings this out more). And only He truly knows people’s hearts, which is why He told us not to be their judge. This particular English translation of Hebrews (TPT) is talking about Abel’s justice, which we see throughout the Old Testament as retributive, crying out for blood. But God has no need for this kind of revenge or retaliation; His desire has always been to restore us to Himself and put us back together and make us whole. So, yes, we can offer HIS restorative justice through offering His grace and mercy, as He has done for us. This brings people together, not separating them into groups, or worse, angry mobs. And the central message of that grace is forgiveness, which requires letting go of an offense and giving it to God. This opens the door for restoration and healing of our wounded souls and of all our relationships.

  3. Pingback: “Justice or Forgiveness” | See, there's this thing called biology...

  4. Oh, I like this very much, Mel! Well done. I linked to it because I needed a whole post to respond properly.

  5. Tricia says:

    Excellent post Mel! Timely too as it speaks very much to the issues we are facing today.

  6. Pingback: “White, Woke, but Spiritually Broke” | In My Father's House

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