15th January 2021
John Grisham’s novel A Time to Kill tells the story of a man put on trial for the murder of the two men who raped his daughter. She was ten years old. There’s no doubt that the men assaulted his daughter. There’s no doubt that he killed them. The question is whether it’s right for a father to avenge such a brutal attack.
Grisham explains how he came up with the idea for the book. He came across the account of a trial where a young girl was giving evidence against the man who had assaulted her. He says, “I wondered what I would do if she were my daughter … For one brief yet interminable moment I wanted to be her father. I wanted justice.”
Few of us will face such horrendous wrongdoing – although too many will, and one is too many – yet we will all be the victims of wrongdoing and injustice on a smaller scale. Now, if the person admits what they’ve done wrong, we can forgive them and we can be reconciled. But what if they do not or cannot admit how they’ve wronged us? What do we do then? Surely there must be justice?
Yes, there must be justice, and there will be. And the Bible encourages us to leave it to God. He cares passionately about justice, far more than we do. He cares so much about justice that he doesn’t simply forgive.
He gives his Son to die for our sins, so that justice might be done and we can be forgiven. He pays the price for our forgiveness. He’s not asking us to abandon justice – far from it – but to leave it to him.
The place to see this is Romans chapter 12. First we’re told, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil … but overcome evil with good.” And then, “live at peace with everyone … [and] if your enemy is hungry, feed him.” So, first, don’t take revenge. Second, show love. And in the middle of all that, we find this: “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” So, third, leave it to God.
Leaving justice to God will help us not to take revenge ourselves, and even to show love to those who’ve wronged us. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian imprisoned and later executed by the Nazis for his opposition to Hitler. In one of his letters from prison, he wrote, “… it is only when God’s wrath and vengeance are hanging as grim realities over the heads of one’s enemies that something of what it means to love and forgive them can touch our hearts.”
Father, you are more loving and more just than we are. Help us to love what you love and to hate what you hate. Amen.
Chris Hobbs, Senior Minister