When God gave Moses the Law, which is covered in the first five books of the Old Testament, there was instruction for a multitude of situations. There was instruction covering personal interaction, instruction for worshipping, and even instruction for the judicial system. As part of instructions for the judiciary, there was a concept that called for a proportional punishment for a crime. Guided by the notion that one who takes an eye should lose and eye, or one who takes a tooth should lose a tooth, the Jewish people didn’t have to wonder if justice would be served. With fair and honest judges handling the sentencing, the people could make room in their hearts for love, grace and mercy.
When we lose faith in the justice system, we become more concerned about defending our rights and becoming judges ourselves. What room we have in our hearts to love those who might harm us or threaten our rights is diminished by our perceived need to defend ourselves. If someone threatens our dignity, our possessions, or our liberty, we will feel the need to meet that threat swiftly, and with whatever force is necessary to repel the threat. For those who believe that all there is in life is what we have in this world, the defense will be even stronger.
As Jesus tells his disciples that they should turn the other cheek, give their cloak, or walk the extra mile, he does so because he is asking his disciples to embrace two key truths. First, those who are co-heirs with Christ are also God’s possessions, having laid down their lives at the foot of the cross. Therefore, all that they are and all that they have belong to God. Second, God is the ultimate judge, and God’s justice will prevail.
Rarely does a Christian proclaim the Gospel more clearly than when they offer forgiveness and love in the face of violence, hatred and oppression. Jesus asked God to forgive his executioners while on the cross. Stephen asked God to forgive those who were in the process of stoning him to death. More recently, the families of those ruthlessly gunned down at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston five years ago stood before the gunman and forgave him. These were not the actions of people seeking to defend their rights. Rather, they reflected lives that were totally surrendered to the cross of Christ – lives that left room in their hearts for love, grace and mercy.
This is not a call for Christians to become doormats. It is not loving to encourage law breaking, and to stay silent then is to enable the disregard of God’s sovereignty. Yet when Christians speak up, it must be with love for both the oppressed and the oppressor, and it must be without regard for the consequences. As Christ’s ambassadors, we must accept that God can use us however He sees fit, and we cannot do that if we are concerned about our personal rights and human justice. God is the potter, and we are the clay, and whether He makes us for noble or ignoble uses, it is always for His purpose. Therefore, those who love and trust the Lord must put their faith in Him, so that we can serve Him faithfully without concern for our own rights.
Peace and blessings – Pastor Aaron