- Eldon Peterson
We can have hope because of the justice of God
Who doesn’t desire justice? I have never met anyone who did not long for justice for themselves and others. However, what is interesting is the ingrained inconsistencies of our desire. For generally we define justice by what is best for me.
I do not mean to be demeaning in this observation, but due to our lack of objectivity, we desire what we believe we deserve. For example, nearly everyone that I ask believes that they deserve to go to heaven. Why? Because they are a good person. However, this begs the question, “What is your standard for measuring good?”
All of us can think of someone that we are better than morally, but does this comparison make us good? I have yet to meet someone who claims to be righteous when Christ is the standard of righteousness! However, we are judged by Christ’s righteousness not our neighbors and we fail to remember our guilt as James 2:10 reminds us, “For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.” It is only as we recognize our guilt that we will look for a savior. Then, rather than seeking a way out, we will seek out Christ; the one who came to set sinners free from the power of sin.
The root of our problem is the desire to sidestep our problem of sin. Maybe I can illustrate it better by exploring the difference between a patrol officer and a traffic camera in enforcing traffic laws. The question to consider is which is God more like?
Today, many communities use traffic cameras to enforce traffic laws. If you run a red light, or speed, or make an illegal turn, the traffic camera is programed to take a picture of you and your vehicle’s license plate and mail you a ticket. You may not even be cognitive of your infraction or guilt, but there it is in living color. While there is an appeal process, for the most part your guilt has already been established and a fine levied.
Assuming that you are guilty, which would you rather face in your guilt — the traffic camera or the patrol officer? Most without hesitation would answer the patrol officer. Why? Because they will listen to our story, maybe show mercy and extend to us unwarranted forgiveness by possibly giving us a warning. So, to stretch my illustration a bit further, would we rather relate to God as a patrol officer or the traffic camera? Again, we are likely to say the patrol officer! Why? Because then we might find a way out of our guilt as a sinner.
As much as I understand this, it creates a god of our own liking rather than knowing the God of scripture. While God is a God of mercy and grace, he is also a God of justice and righteousness. The desire for God to be more like us in hopes of wiggling out of the penalty of our sin corrupts who God is.
Sin is black and white, right and wrong. We steal or we don’t, we lie or we tell the truth. We create categories for sin to lessen the offense and reason that because “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” he will surely let us off with just a warning. However, the sin that we have inherited from Adam leaves us condemned and no amount of good deeds can cover it up.
The good news of the gospel is that because of Christ we have hope. For while God is certainly more like the traffic camera, convicting our conscience of our irrefutable guilt, we are shown grace, unmerited forgiveness, through Christ. “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8)
We may think that we want a god who is like us, but do we really? Because God judges with righteousness, we can have full assurance knowing that God’s righteous demands were satisfied it Christ, and that “God made us alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13, 14)
I give thanks for God’s justice, because then may I trust in His words, and his word tells us that it is because of his justice that we who are sinners can now have hope through Christ.