Friday, November 18, 2011

God, Justice, Underbelly, and The Magic Finger

I mentioned in my post 5 Things I've Learnt in 10 Years of Following Christ that sometimes I really don't understand grace.

Perhaps it is because grace involves getting what you DON'T deserve.  In their song, Be My Escape, Relient K wrote, "The beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair."  That's the whole point of grace - it makes things unfair.  It does not always appear just.

Don't get me wrong - I'm very glad God showed grace to me.  He gave me life and salvation when I deserved judgement and death.  But often I struggle with understanding grace and showing it to others.

I've always been very concerned with justice - even since I was a child.  I remember screaming at my mum on countless occasions, "It's not FAIR."  Usually this was in response to getting punished for something my brother did.  Perhaps it's also because I, like many others, was bullied at school.  When you're a kid, it hurts to see others doing terrible things to you and getting away with it.  The lack of justice can be spirit-crushing.

Maybe this is why I got so excited when I heard about the book, The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl.  Although I never read the book until I was an adult, I'd heard that it was about a girl who had a magic finger to get revenge on those who made her angry and I thought, Cool!   Here's a caption:
The Magic Finger is something I've been able to do my whole life. I can't tell you how I do it, because I don't even know myself. But it always happens when I get cross... and suddenly a sort of flash comes out of me, a quick flash, like something electric. It jumps out and touches the person who has made me cross...
How great would it be to literally point the finger at someone and something humiliating happens to them.  Excellent!

Some people I know have also wondered why I have enjoyed watching all of the Underbelly series.  "It glorifies crime," they say.  I actually think it does the opposite.  It shows evil people briefly having their time in the sun, but in real life, they all seem to be either dead or in prison.  I think that's why I'm drawn to Underbelly and other crime shows.  Justice is inevitably done.

I know that God is just.  What I have trouble dealing with is suspended justice.  God has set a day in the future where He will call everyone to account for their thoughts, words and deeds.  This is both comforting and scary, and sends me running to the cross of Christ for mercy.  But knowing this doesn't always make it easy to live in the here and now where I need to leave justice in God's hands, and resist the temptation to take revenge.

Over the past 10 years (and particularly in the last four years), I have learnt a lot about trusting God when I am wronged and mistreated.  It has been a hard and painful journey at times.  I have had to fight the urge to take matters into my own hands.  In saying this, I do not mean that it is wrong to use the earthly justice systems.  It is not wrong to involve the police or go to court.  But these systems are not perfect and God is the only one who executes righteous anger and true justice.

Last year I was listening to a sermon which challenged to me to think harder about what Do not take revenge actually means.  It can mean not bashing the person, but also it means not doing more subtle things like trashing that person's reputation during a conversation with a friend's the shocking one....not praying for the person.  Massive ouch!  How many times have I refused to pray for someone because my anger was burning towards them.  Not lifting someone up before our Heavenly Father can actually be the ultimate form of revenge.

A few months back I was treated badly by someone and plotting revenge was at the forefront of my mind.  I considered playing some pranks like ordering them a pizza and a taxi (I know, how juvenile am I) - even though I didn't have their phone number and would have to get it from the White Pages (if it was in there).  I thought about how many people I could tell how evil this person was.  I couldn't pray for them except to say, "Lord, please smite them for me."  I was ANGRY.  I wanted revenge.  Even though I felt God telling me, "NO Sarah!  Leave things to me," I strongly considered putting one of my plans into action.

But then, not long after the incident, I was prayed for by a Christian friend and this friend told me she felt God telling her that I would inherit His nature.  This friend did not know what was going on, so when she told me that, I could not describe the peace it brought to my soul.  Despite my evil thoughts of revenge, God was at work in me and He was going to make me more Christ-like.

Then a couple of weeks later I found myself praying for the person who had wronged me.  I'm not saying this to make myself look good.  It was hard to get the words out, but I was honest with God, and He helped me.  I told Him that I was having trouble praying for this person, but He enabled me to pray for her.  This person is not a Christian and I found myself praying that God would change her heart and bring her to Himself.  All glory to God here because this was definitely not from myself.

When I find myself on the receiving end of hurtful behaviour, it's a constant battle to stop wishing for a magic finger.  Instead I need to keep trusting in my good and just God, who knows and sees all.

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