That is the message we keep hearing over and over in the news. Ever since the death of George Floyd last week, there have been riots and civil unrest unlike anything this nation has ever seen. As I have pondered these happenings, I keep asking myself, what is the justice people want? Where will it end? How many more people will end up being killed before people are satisfied that justice has been served and that the death of George Floyd has been atoned for?
My wife and I have tried to teach our kids that retaliation never ends in a good place. If your brother hits you, and then you hit him back, and then the cycle repeats itself, where will it ever end? You’ve just got the Hatfields and the McCoy’s and a boatload of bitterness and vengeance.
In contrast, there stands the Christian teaching on forgiveness. The Bible says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Forgiveness is hard, costly, even painful. “Forgiveness means bearing the cost instead of making the wrongdoer do it, so you can reach out in love to seek your enemy’s renewal and change.” (The Reason for God, Keller, 199)
Forgiveness is what the cross of Jesus Christ is all about. Even though He lived a perfect, sinless life, Jesus was given over to death at the hands of sinful men. “When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). Remarkably, through the greatest injustice in human history, justice was served. On the cross and through the sacrifice of His life, Jesus paid the debt for all the sins of His people (2 Corinthians 5:21).
In all reality, human beings are poor arbiters of justice. That is why the apostle Paul writes, “Repay no one evil for evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved never avenge yourself, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay” (Romans 12:17-19). This is the radical, and wonderful teaching of Christianity. God absorbed the debt we owe, and forgave His people of their sins through sacrifice of His beloved Son (1 Peter 2:24-25).
The above video is a powerful modern day illustration of forgiveness. Forgiveness is never easy, but it is the only way to stop the chain of sin and evil. It also serves as a metaphor for the love of God in Christ.
Pray for this nation. It desperately needs healing and it desperately needs the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is the only message where love, forgiveness, justice, and reconciliation perfectly meet.
Indeed, Jesus Christ is the hope of the world!