Jesus says: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:44-45).
However, Christians honour this injunction more in the breach than in the observance. How can we possibly love our persecutors? Is this not asking too much of believers?
Imagine a situation where an unbeliever viciously attacks a Christian. He kills his wife and children and destroys all his property. Nevertheless, the attacker is allowed to go Scot-free. Moreover, during the burial of his family, the Christian has counselled: “Vengeance belongs to God, leave the matter to him.” (Deuteronomy 32:35).
To add insult to injury, at the end of his life on earth, the bereaved man meets his attacker in heaven. They have both become heirs of salvation. I ask you, how acceptable would this be to him?
Consolations of God
What kind of discussion do you think Uriah would have if he were to meet David in heaven? How do you think he would feel meeting in heaven of all places the very man who slept with his wife, got her pregnant and had him killed to cover his tracks?
Moses says: “(God) avenges the blood of his children.” (Deuteronomy 32:43). But does the Lord really repay? Can God give the offended true satisfaction? You have been used and abused; you have been spitefully treated and you take the matter to the Lord. What type of satisfaction are you likely to get?
The Lord would preach the gospel to you. He would tell you to forgive and forget. And if you don’t, the Lord himself would deliver you, the aggrieved person, to tormentors who will torment you until you forgive the offender. (Matthew 18:34).
But what about the offender; what would the Lord do to him? How would the Lord take vengeance on him? The Lord might simply ask someone to go and preach the gospel to him as well. If he receives it, he is pardoned. Would that be acceptable? Thus, Eliphaz asks Job if the consolations of God are enough for him. (Job 15:11).
Of all people to send to preach to Nineveh, God chose Jonah; a Jew. The Assyrians had oppressed the Jews for a long time. Nevertheless, God decided to send Jonah to them, not to destroy them, but to preach to them the gospel of repentance and salvation. Jonah would have none of it. He took a boat and headed for Tarshish instead; the exact opposite direction from Nineveh.
God would have none of that but decided to take Jonah to Nineveh against his will by a “submarine.” Jonah’s shipmates throw him into the sea and then God arranged for him to be swallowed by a big fish. Jonah did not need persuading after surviving that ordeal; he had no choice but to preach to his enemies. His preaching was so effective that everybody in Nineveh repented and God’s judgment on the city was revoked.
But Jonah was greatly displeased with this outcome. He complained: “Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, one who relents from doing harm.” (Jonah 4:1-4).
God’s unacceptable mercies
Jonah was so angry, he wanted to commit suicide. In spite of all the atrocities of the people of Nineveh, they received God’s free pardon. How can this be fair? You simply can’t get retributive justice from a God who is gracious and loving; whose mercies endure forever.
But is there not something strange about being upset with God because he is gracious and forgiving? Does this not put us in the same place as those evil Pharisees who persecuted Jesus because he healed a man on the Sabbath? (John 5:16). Since we are really telling it like it is, let us pull no punches here. Do you know the greatest injustice of all? The greatest injustice of all is if you, reading this here and now, end up as one of the heirs of salvation.
You, who were a crook, a liar and a cheat. You were a fornicator and an adulterer. You were an idol worshipper, a drunkard and a drug addict. You were proud, vain and riddled with deceitful lusts. Why in heavens name should God forgive someone like you? In the name of justice, it would be absolutely unfair for a sinner like you to spend eternity in heaven.
So let us call a spade a spade. If we are going to insist on justice, let there be justice for all. Since all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, justice without mercy means justice for all. Therefore, I would rather have a merciful God than a God of judgment. Even if this means I have to spend eternity in heaven with Idi Amin or Adolf Hitler; so be it. Heavenly Father, let your mercy triumph over your judgment in my case. (James 2:13).
Life is so unfair. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Some die young; some live to a ripe old age. Some are handicapped; others are bed-ridden with sickness. Some are handsome; some are ugly. Some are smart; some are stupid. Some are fast; some are slow. Some are successful; some are failures.
But life is unfair because what we call life is not the life of God. What we call life is precisely what Jesus came to redeem us from. He came to redeem us from a life of injustice; a life of ups and downs; a life of situations and circumstances; a life of sickness and health; a life of sin and death.
Life is unfair, but death is fair. The poor die and the rich also die. Moreover, when the rich die, they lose all their wealth. When the poor die, they lose all their poverty. When the sick die, they lose their sickness. In death, the disadvantaged lose all their disadvantages; while the advantaged lose all their advantages. Every valley is exalted and every mountain is made low. (Isaiah 40:4). Therefore, the fairness of God is revealed, not in life, but in death.
A believer is a dead man living a resurrected life. No matter what we go through, we can no longer talk of injustice. The word does not exist in the language of the kingdom of God. Neither can a believer insist on vengeance? To do so is to be in danger of revoking his free pardon.
Dearly beloved, you can no longer make a case about somebody’s injustice to you and demand retributive justice. Should you insist on satisfaction, God will also insist on satisfaction. A Christian who still insists on retributive justice is someone who refuses to understand or appreciate the pardon he has received from God.
Jesus says: “Freely you have received; freely give.” (Matthew 10:8). Therefore, since you received pardon freely; pardon freely.