“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. “ Ps. 45:6-7
Sometimes, as Christians, we feel guilty when we are violated in some way and we want justice. We can think that justice and forgiveness are mutually exclusive. Actually, it is revenge and forgiveness that are mutually exclusive.
The Kingdom of God is built on principles of fairness and Jesus loves righteousness and hates wickedness. In this article I am considering seeking justice in the sense that a criminal violation has occurred [theft, fraud, assault, etc.] not particularly the non-criminal offences which occur.
We should start by recognizing the difference between justice and revenge. Revenge is a desire or attempt to “get even” for something that has happened. It desires to make the other person hurt for what they did and takes delight in their punishment. Often, but not always, revenge works outside the law or manipulates the law for its purposes. True justice recognizes that an offence has happened and there needs to be restitution. It seeks legal means without malice to require the guilty party to make full restitution for their actions.
1. The first reason a Christian seeks equity when criminal action has taken place is because they recognize EVERY sin - criminal or non-criminal - is an offence against God. It is an attack and slander of the character of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. While God does not need defenders, seeking Biblical justice is a declaring that God is not like the criminal…that God is holy, just and fair.
2. The second reason is to restore Godly order. Humanistic nations punish lawbreakers because they disturb the peace of a nation. God created the universe as a seamless garment. Everything is connected somehow whether we see it or not. Seeking Godly restitution - or as close to it as possible - is seeking to repair a tear in the fabric of life.
3. Next, seeking just punishment of the criminal is a way of loving and protecting future innocent victims. A person who has gotten away with a crime is likely to repeat [and often increase the intensity of] the crime against more and more people until finally stopped.
4. Also, requiring restitution is a kindness to the violator. This concept may seem a little strange; however, the criminal not only harms his victim but also harms himself. He further distorts the image of God in himself. He is under the delusion that he is the centre of the universe and can do as he pleases without consequence. This is a dangerous fantasy which will both destroy his life on earth and in eternity. If he can be brought to realize that his actions do have consequences and other people are important, then he is closer to having his own life healed and restored.
5. In some way a person’s life as been violated and there is nothing wrong or contrary to the principles of forgiveness and love in seeking Biblically appropriate restitution for the violation.
If we had a perfect court system the answer would be: yes. However, we all recognize that we live in a sin-damaged world. Man’s justice, even when ordered according to the Bible and not humanistic principles, will always be imperfect and subject to error. Plus, there are countries where it is dangerous for the victim - especially a Christian victim - to seek justice as the legal system is against them to begin with. So there are times when we simply have to recognize that we will not get fair treatment on earth and rest in the knowledge that God will see perfect justice done in the end whether in time or eternity.
Walking in forgiveness means we do not harbour bitterness against the offender or seek revenge. It, also means, we pray for their salvation knowing that if they accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour then Jesus would have paid the price for their sin…just as He has for ours. No matter what was done to us, we have hurt Jesus far more. In one way this is a true test of forgiveness: genuinely praying for the salvation of the offender and his release from eternal consequences while still seeking justice and restitution on earth.