June 10, 2013
Opposition to our faith causes us to cry out to God for justice, for God to deal not only with personal pain but also with those who perpetuate evil against us. The various authors of the Psalms vent their deepest desires regarding the enemies of God who were also their enemies. In Psalm 83:15, the Psalmist asks God to pursue them with a tempest just as a fire consumes a forest. Or, in Psalm 79, the writer asks God to pour his wrath upon the nations who resist God and who have menaced God’s people. The Psalms recognize that God punished and disciplined Israel for its sin and these writers desired to see the same justice applied to the pagan nations who had defied God.
These hymns appeal to God to set things right, which is his prerogative. In Psalm 64, the Psalmist complains about the threat and conspiracy of the enemy, and how they plot against innocent persons. In verse 7 it says that God will shoot them with arrows. They will be struck down as God takes up the cause and plight of those innocent persons. When we face opposition and injustice our hearts may cry out to God for justice, although not as explicitly as we see in the Psalms. Injustice just doesn’t seem right, but we realize that it is God who can square things.
How do we reconcile this heartfelt desire for things to be just and fair at the same time Christ has told us to love and pray for our enemies? It becomes clear in scripture that, first, we are not to seek vengeance personally but allow God to do it if he chooses; secondly we will still feel the desire for justice even though it may not be our place to right the wrongs; third, we move beyond mere justice to compassionate mercy, seeking to win our enemies so they may experience the grace we have experienced and that they may become brothers and sisters in Christ and escape God’s dreadful judgment (Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19: “Do not take revenge but leave a place for God’s wrath”). The perfect example of this attitude is found in Christ as mentioned in I Peter 2:22-23. We do not retaliate, hurl insults, nor threaten anyone who opposes us in the faith. It is God’s grace who helps us under these trying circumstances to act and react in a way that brings honor to God. If we are the recipients of insults for Christ, we are blessed, if we do not retaliate or hurl insults back (I Peter 4:14).
We have the further promise that will make it all worthwhile. Peter says that after we have suffered for a while, Christ will restore us, and make us strong and steadfast once again. All our apparent losses are not really losses if we live in the will of God (I Peter 5:9-10).
How often are we tempted to defend ourselves or seek personal vengeance against those oppose our most sacred beliefs?
You can study more about this in www.vomclassroom.com in the class titled Steadfast Under Fire: Preparing for Persecution under the section titled “Handling Trials and Tribulations: Being Steadfast under Fire.”
Roy Stults, PhD, is the Online Workshop Coordinator and Educational Services Coordinator for The Voice of the Martyrs. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene University (BA and MA), Nazarene Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Doctor of Missiology), and The University of Manchester (England) with a PhD (theology). A Vietnam veteran, Dr. Stults served as a missionary for 19 years and pastored U.S. churches for eight years. Prior to joining VOM, he was a Professor of Religion at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.