Justice, Vengeance, and Following Jesus

Sometimes it’s hard to separate what I am taught to do by God from how God acts and views things.  Jesus’ teaching to us about judging, vengeance, and mercy is for us and for now.  We are to leave justice to him, yet when he judges, we start second guessing…

1 “In those days and at that time,
when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,
2 I will gather all nations
and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat.
There I will put them on trial
for what they did to my inheritance, my people Israel,
because they scattered my people among the nations
and divided up my land.

16 The Lord will roar from Zion
and thunder from Jerusalem;
the earth and the heavens will tremble.
But the Lord will be a refuge for his people,
a stronghold for the people of Israel.
17 “Then you will know that I, the Lord your God,
dwell in Zion, my holy hill.
Jerusalem will be holy;
never again will foreigners invade her.

21 Shall I leave their innocent blood unavenged?
No, I will not.”
Joel 3:1-2, 16-17, 21

19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
Romans 12:19

I was reminded, reading Joel, of the Lord’s words spoken through Moses in Deuteronomy and then through Paul in Romans 12: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.  Vengeance belongs to God.  Sometimes we think vengeance is wrong.  I think that.  Do you?

Getting revenge isn’t what Jesus would do, is it?  He taught us to turn the other cheek – let it go.

Well it turns out that vengeance is right.  Vengeance belongs to God and is clearly a righteous act of God toward those who actively oppose him and oppress or attack his people.  I’m having a hard time with this. It goes against what we teach our kids.  It goes against what Jesus taught us.  Or does it?

We sometimes have a hard time separating what we are taught to do from how God acts and views things.  Jesus didn’t come to judge the world; he came to save the world, (John 3).  At the same time, Jesus will be the future judge of the world in eternity (Matthew 25).

And so we see that Jesus’ teaching to us about judging and vengeance is teaching for us and for now.  It is not for God in eternity.  We are to follow Jesus and his teaching and leave these other matters to God…

I also wrestle with judgment and mercy: how will God determine who will suffer his vengeance?  This is not for me, and yet as I reach out for understanding beyond flesh and blood and time, into the mysteries of the spirit world and eternity, I desire to reconcile it in my mind.

The answer – the only answer I really need – is that he is God.  God is the Lord. I am not.  And I believe God’s nature and the perfection of his will and justice will become clear to me on the other side of time, in eternity.

And I am thankful that God cares for me so much that he will defend and guard and even avenge me.  I do not deserve his love.


Marc Kinna


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