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No Justice – No Peace

  

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.  Respect what is right in the sight of all men.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.  Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.  “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals in his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. [ Romans 12:17-21 NASB]

“No Justice, No Peace”  Many a bumper have I seen displaying this pithy statement.  I would say that the Scriptures are in agreement with this.  However, usually the statement is used in the context of the necessity of bringing greater justice to our society, and only then will there be more peace. In many parts of the world today, it would seem that justice and/or peace are only a pipe dream.  Yet as Christians, we know that whether we have justice or not now, there is a day coming when the Judge of the Universe will bring absolute righteous judgment to all and then the “Prince of Peace” will establish peace.

Timothy Keller is a noted Evangelical Christian pastor and author who recently wrote a book entitled  The Reason For God.  In Chapter Five “How Can A Loving God Send People To Hell?”  Keller writes some compelling arguments for understanding what the Scriptures teach concerning the judgment of God.  Although I disagree with his understanding of hell, I found his presentation on the subject of God’s vindication insightful.  Here’s an example:

The Reason For GodCan our passion for justice be honored in a way that does not nurture our desire for blood vengeance?  Volf [a Yale theologian from Croatia] says the best resource for this is belief in the concept of God’s divine justice.  If I don’t believe that there is a God who will eventually put all things right, I will take up the sword and will be sucked into the endless vortex of retaliation.  Only if I am sure that there’s a God who will right all wrongs and settle all accounts perfectly do I have the power to refrain.

Czeslaw Milosz, the Nobel Prize-winning Polish poet, wrote the remarkable essay “The Discreet Charms of Nihilism.”  In it he remembers how Marx had called religion “the opiate of the people” because the promise of an afterlife (Marx said) led the poor and the working class to put up with unjust social conditions.  But, Milosz continue:

And now we are witnessing a transformation.  A true opium of the people is a belief in nothingness after death–the huge solace of thinking that our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders are not going to be judged…[but] all religions recognize that our deeds are imperishable.

Many people complain that belief in a God of judgment will lead to a more brutal society.  Milosz had personally seen, in both Nazism and Communism, that a loss of belief in a God of judgment can lead to brutality.  If we are free to shape life and morals any way we choose without ultimate accountability, it can lead to violence.  Volf and Milosz argue that the doctrine of God’s final judgment is a necessary undergirding for human practices of love and peacemaking.*

This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.  For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  [1 Thessalonians 1:5-8 NASB]

*Timothy Keller, The Reason For God (Dutton, 2008), pp. 75-76

  

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