Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Pendulum: A God of Justice and of Mercy

There have been many thoughts circulating in my head since Osama Bin Laden was killed eight days ago.  Mostly these thoughts have centred around the response on Facebook with about ten of my Facebook 'friends' posting a now revealed to be fake quote by Martin Luther King Jr.

To be honest this kind of annoyed me.  Not because so many people were posting the same thing (although my news feed was very boring that day) or that they were jumping on a bandwagon without checking its credibility (though that too was annoying).  I understood the sentiment behind it, and I do agree, but I thought these actions were ill-timed.

I wonder how many of those people, who were so quick to condemn the Americans for celebrating, have lost a loved one as a result of terrorist activities?  Or stood by and watched someone who murdered their loved one get a very lenient sentence?  No, I'm guessing many of those people have no idea what it feels like.  I'm guessing many of them have never been victims of heinous crimes, been persecuted and stood by helplessly as justice did not prevail.

Personally I thought the wild celebrations in the US were over the top.  I'm not disagreeing with many of the Facebookers there.  What I am saying is that if we were in the shoes of people who had lost family and friends on September 11 2001, we might feel differently.  We might actually feel glad that the world has one less evil and dangerous person in it.  Many people feel a sense of relief and even gladness when paedophiles or serial killers are sentenced justly.  We shouldn't be so quick to judge. 

I'm still really not sure how to feel about Bin Laden's death.  I don't think his death will signal the end of terrorism.  I certainly don't think the US is perfect, and I don't like the way the Australian government is so quick to jump into bed with them (although I guess having large borders and a small population makes us vulnerable).  I still wonder why the US took ten years to find Bin Laden.  How many civilians have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq because of their 'War on Terror'?  I certainly don't think the US is any more a Christian nation than Australia is.  Part of me is glad Bin Laden is dead, but part of me grieves that he was so evil in the first place and that anyone (either him or his victims) had to die.  I don't want to celebrate the death of one person, yet I also believe that God is a God of justice.  (That doesn't mean I think the US killing Bin Laden is an act of God's justice - that's something we will never know).

This whole scenario got me thinking about a sermon series on Revelation Duncan and I listened to a couple of years ago.  That's why I chose yesterday's Bible verse.  Here we have God's people crying out to Him for justice - people who have been persecuted for their faith.  I know this is not the same as terrorism and the Bin Laden situation, but it does raise questions about why we get so uncomfortable about God being a God of justice, but have no problems with Him being a God of mercy.  A couple of years ago in Bible study, we read Psalm 139 where David asks God to bring judgement on his enemies:
If only you would slay the wicked, O God!  Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!  They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.  Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord, and abhor those who rise up against you?  I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies. (Psalm 139:19-22)
I do feel uncomfortable by David's strong words, particularly the word 'hate'.  But David is not asking God to smite these people for his own sake - these people are not just rising up against David, they are against God.

Many people say we are not to judge others, and that is true - God is the judge.  But there is a difference between passing a sentence on them, and calling a spade a spade.  We are all sinners, but that does not mean it is wrong to acknowledge that Bin Laden was an evil man.

Does God love Osama Bin Laden?  Yes, the same as He loves Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, Mugabe and many other cruel dictators.  Ezekiel 18:23 says: "Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord.  Rather am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?"  God was not gloating when Osama Bin Laden was killed.  Proverbs 24:17 says: "Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble."  We have been given the difficult commandment to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44).  God does not get His jollies out of condemning people - He'd much rather they repent, turn from their sin and follow Him.  But He is a God of justice.  He sees people's pain.  He is angered by sin.  He will one day call everyone, including you and me, to account.

I have a problem with signs like this:

Not because it isn't true - but because it is inappropriate.  Yes Jesus loves Osama (as inconceivable as that might be), but tact is needed and this does not take into account the hurt and suffering people have endured.  It just ends up dividing people and causing more pain.

We celebrate God being a God of mercy, and rightly so.  We rejoice that Saul of Tarsus, who once persecuted Christians, was saved and transformed by God into the apostle Paul who took the gospel to what is now modern day Europe.  We marvel that God can change hearts and lives - no matter what the person has done.  I am glad He had mercy on me.

But we should see the cross as not only an act of mercy, but of justice.  God did not overlook sin when He let the guilty go free - Jesus, the innocent one, stood in our place.  Our earthly justice systems may fail us, but God is just and we should be glad this is so.  He sees the tears, He sees Christians being persecuted and crying out, "How long, Lord?"  He does not forget.  He does not overlook sin as if it doesn't matter that much.

I do have mixed feelings about the whole Bin Laden situation.  But I think that we should remember that many of us have not walked in the shoes of those who have suffered because of terrorism before we start relentlessly quoting 'Love your enemies'.  And while rejoicing may not be the right response, we can thank God that He is a God of both justice and mercy.


Gombojav Tribe said...

Stopping over from Best Post of the Week! *wave*

The title of your post caught my eye, because I'm a Christian, too. Then I saw what it was about and I was even more curious--enough to read the whole thing, even though it's after midnight! (Could have just bookmarked it for tomorrow!)

Anyway, I can relate to a lot of what you've written. I had such mixed feelings that night--a lot to sort through--and I don't think I'm completely done sorting!

Although, not a pacifists by any means, I also couldn't rejoice like some did that night.

I blogged about it:


Thanks for sharing your candid feelings. God bless!

Sarah said...

Welcome Gombojav Tribe! Thanks for your comments and I look forward to checking out your blog :)