Age Of Rage
We live in a day when it seems that everyone is offended by everything and anything, yet tolerance is the touted as the highest virtue. Skin is thin and tempers are short. People disliking the thoughts, beliefs, looks, or genetic make-up of others and in some extreme cases, to the point of feeling entitled to take the very lives away from those they disagree with or don't like. Mass shootings and violent protests all evidence the rage that a strong sense of entitlement and hatred can bring. Although this type of anger and hate is never justified, sadly the person committing the act often believes that they are meting out some type of justice.
Where does this intense anger get it's fuel? I'd propose, that in part, it comes from our innate desire for justice. Everyone craves justice. God has placed within man a natural sense of "right versus wrong." Romans 2:15 says,
"They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them."
Think about why shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Law and Order, and Criminal Minds have been so popular. We love to see justice served. Clearly, in the case of mass homicides and violent protests these desires have become corrupted.
In the last year, scrolling through my Facebook feed has also provided evidence of the strong desire people have to see justice come to those who are deemed "evil" and seemingly deserving of justice. Scroll through the comments section of any post about a murderer, child molester, or rapist and it won't be long before you're bombarded with visuals of all the ways people desire justice to be delivered to the perpetrator of the crime.
The interesting thing about our desire for justice, is that we rarely, if ever, want it for ourselves. We are naturally quick to defend ourselves and come up numerous reasons why we say or do things that someone else might call into question as being "wrong."
We Think We Are Good
Ask any stranger you meet whether or not they think they are a good person and the overwhelming response is, "Yes!" Proverbs 20:6 tells us that most men will proclaim their own goodness, even when presented with overwhelming evidence that proves otherwise.
Take 5 minutes to check out this video from Living Waters that demonstrates this truth perfectly:
In spite of how we may feel about ourselves and our "goodness," God's word tells us something quite different.
“None is righteous, no, not one" Romans 3:10
"...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" Romans 3:23
"Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." Psalm 51:5
If you're like most people, it's difficult to initially accept that you were born sinful, that you were guilty from birth, yet that's exactly what scripture teaches. Think about it though, do we need to teach children to lie, to manipulate, to be selfish, to steal? No, quite the opposite is true. Consider the millions of parenting books that have been written and seminars held in an effort to help parents teach their children to behave, to "be good." This does not come naturally. Spend a day observing children at any amusement park or McDonald's play land and tell me they aren't little sinners!
When we understand that our perceived "goodness" will not earn us heaven, it changes everything. First, we must understand that if we were to get what we deserve, it most certainly would not be heaven. Every person that has ever walked the planet, apart from Jesus, has broken God's laws and is therefore considered a criminal. Criminals deserve to be punished for their crimes. Most people would agree with this statement. Yet, we fail to see ourselves as criminals. But does our opinion on this really matter? If there is a God and He created everything, from the laws of nature to the moral laws we have written on our hearts, our opinions matter little.
Breaking the Law has Consequences
Imagine if you played on a basketball team and you know that it's against the rules to double dribble, but you think it's a stupid rule and that it really doesn't harm anyone, so you decide to do it anyway, well, because you like to double dribble. What's going to happen? Your team will lose possession of the ball due to your illegal action. If you choose to continue to violate the rules, it's unlikely that your coach will continue to put you in the game, and ultimately, your failure to submit to the rules may mean being expelled from the team. Relatively speaking, being kicked off a basketball team is a small matter when compared to the eternal consequences of choosing to violate the laws God has clearly laid out for us in His word and graciously written on our hearts.
As believers, let us be careful of the justice we desire for others, lest we forget the justice we deserve. God in His grace paid our fine with His life's blood, taking the punishment that we deserve so that our case could be legally dismissed in His heavenly courtroom. For us to be so quick to desire justice for others, demonstrates our blindness to our own sinful condition.
You may be thinking, "Well, yeah but I've never actually killed anyone!" Are you sure about that? God's standard is perfection, how can it not be? He is God, there is no flaw in Him. Jesus said,
"Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" 1 John 3:15
This statement makes every single one of us guilty of murder, doesn't it? Or can you honestly say that you've never been angry at the driver of that car that cut you off on the expressway?
Mercy is Better than Judgement
Rather than allowing our desire for justice to spill over into us doling it out, we need to trust God to bring justice and thank Him for His provision of mercy and grace. When we think to ourselves that someone doesn't deserve God's mercy, it's an absurd thought! Mercy, by definition, cannot be earned and it is never deserved. Mercy is the withholding of some punishment that is deserved, while grace is the giving of something good that is not deserved.
This does not mean that on this side of heaven, we ignore lawbreakers and just wait for God to deal with them. By no means! Matter of fact, our very courtrooms and entire justice system have been based on biblical principles. God has put governments in place to protect people and uphold laws, which, not surprisingly, were founded on moral laws. As flawed as these systems are, because they too are run by sinners, they are an imperfect picture of God's justice. Instead, this means that we too should desire mercy and repentance, rather than justice because this is what God desires for us.
"For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment" James 2:13
The next time your tempted to become enraged over an injustice, remind yourself of the mercy God shows you through His son, Jesus Christ. Be reminded of the sacrifice that was made, the fine that was paid, so that you could go free. And do not be deceived in thinking that God lets anyone get away with anything. Romans 2:5 assures us,
"But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God's righteous judgment will be revealed."
This should prompt us to pray for those who are storing up God's wrath, not condemn them in our hearts. And when we pray for others, our enemies in particular, we are blessed. God somehow uproots the bitterness and replaces it with compassion. He gives us freedom from our self-righteous anger and replaces it with peace. Let us not forget who we once were before God rescued us.