O Lord, the God of vengeance,
O God of vengeance, let your glorious justice shine forth!
Arise, O judge of the earth.
Give the proud what they deserve.
Psalm 94:1-2 (NLT)
International Justice Mission (IJM) is one of the groups Wendy and I regularly support financially. In fact, because Wendy has developed a bit of a reputation for her amazing cheesecake, she occasionally gets orders for them. She decided some time ago that we will eat the cost of making any cheesecake ordered and every cent of the money she charges people for her cheesecake goes directly to IJM who works around the globe to rescue victims of slavery, exploitation and other forms of violent oppression.
I couldn’t help but think of the work of IJM as I read Psalm 94 this morning. The psalms are all ancient song lyrics that express a wide breadth of human emotion. The lyrics of this one are a heart-felt calling out for God’s justice in a cruel and unjust world. When I hear about the horrors experienced by those IJM has delivered from bondage, it inspires to sing along with this ancient cry for vengeance and recompense.
At the same time, my thirty years of sojourn through God’s Message have taught me many things. One of the lessons learned is that I cannot forget the fact that as I call on God to rain down justice on evil-doers I am asking for judgment upon myself. Jesus used the metaphor of yeast when talking about wrong-doing. Anyone who’s made bread knows that you put in just a teeny-weeny pinch of yeast and it spreads throughout the dough, causing it to rise. In God’s economy, the person who has a pinch of wrongdoing in their life is as guilty as those who have a pound of it. We are all in bondage to uncontrollable appetites of one form or another.
There is something incongruent in my heart with this. I cry out for God to strike down those I see as evil doers while at the same time I cry out for God to have grace mercy with the evil that I do. It is a natural human emotion to desire justice for evil. It is an equally human trait to diminish, ignore and excuse the evil in me.
Jesus said to bless our enemies and pray for persecutors. Jesus Himself had nothing but kindness, love and forgiveness for corrupt and unjust tax collectors, the thugs-for-hire who beat Him, and the Roman soldiers who executed Him in horrific fashion. Jesus’ most vehement and judgmental tirades were exclusively aimed at the good, clean-cut, upstanding religious people… like me.
Today I am pondering cheesecake, charity, and chains. Wendy will continue to make cheesecake and we will continue to support IJM and the work of delivering victims of oppression. But, my personal attitude towards those who do such evil is challenged this morning. I believe they deserve justice, but they also need God. They need God as much, if not more than I do. The evil and wrongdoing in me is well concealed and relatively controlled, but it is still there. If I had been born in a different time and place in different circumstances I might just as easily have been the one enslaving others.