Jesus teaches us to be people of peace.
If someone strikes me on one cheek, I am to turn the other cheek. If someone takes my jacket, I should give him my shirt. My motives must never be driven with the selfish desire to gain the upper hand or get revenge. This is not of God.
If this was all there was to the story, those who have a gripe against Christianity for being fairly limp-wristed and rather pathetic would have something of an argument. (Not a great one, in the larger scheme of things, but enough to keep things interested.)
As it is, Jesus instructs us to behave in this way, not because God will just let things slide and bad people doing bad things will prosper. Not at all.
The larger picture sees a God who takes justice very seriously. I reckon in the blood-soaked Old Testament (and don’t think the New Testament side-steps the issue), we get glimpses of how the Father takes justice so seriously.
This is why I reckon King David really was a man after God’s own heart.
Check it. Here’s the new King with his vengeful general Joab who loses a brother to General Abner. When Abner comes to make peace with David, the king sees the opportunity to make things right, but Joab sees a chance to get his revenge. The next thing you know the King is leading the funeral procession for a general that used to be after his blood. David won’t forget this, but leaves Joab where he is.
Later David’s household gets all fractious with one brother raping a step-sister, then a brother killing the other brother, then that same brother-killing brother – Absalom by name – looking to supplant his Pops. Now David is again on the run. Whilst on the run he is given verbal abuse by some homie called Shimei. Some of David’s supporters want to sort Shimei out there and then, but no, says David, leave him alone, maybe God has set him to give me grief, is the sentiment. David won’t forget this, but leaves Shimei where he is.
Joab takes it upon himself to kill Absalom – against David’s orders. Just to put the icing on the cake, Joab goes onto kill another general called Amasa against David’s desires. David won’t forget this, but leaves Joab where he is.
You get the picture. Here’s all these snakes in the grass giving David grief. Everything in us says to let ’em have it. Let vengeance have its turn. Yet David lets them carry on.
Until his deathbed.
On that death bed as the son rises to take on the throne, the father is very clear that now is the time for judgement. Judgement for Joab and judgement for Shimei. Who better to do it for the father than the son.
For more on what happens to Shimei and Joab, go ahead and catch up in 1 Kings 2. (I seriously believe that movie The Godfather took more than a leaf or two from this episode.)
What am I saying?
You read a Jesus’ parables that talk about a father sending his son out to see those who are meant to be looking after the vineyard, and they end up killing the son. That does not happen without any recompense. The deal of justice will see what has been wrong paid for.
Why we don’t have to get involved in the repayment, is because it’s in good hands. It’s in the Father’s hands. He will repay.
Indeed, that’s why we make an effort praying on behalf of those who disrespect us in the hope that God will have mercy and they will repent rather than experience how God will repay. The kind of justice our Father will mete out will show exactly why He’s slow to anger. For believe me, we will not like it, when God gets angry.
That’s because He is a God of justice, holiness and righteousness. It’s integral to who He is. It’s what makes His love, grace and mercy all the more amazing, precisely because it is inextricably intertwined with these characteristics. They are inseparable.
He sees His children being disrespected – trust me, He will repay. He sees His children left in poverty with no compassion on their situation – trust me, He will repay. He sees His children mercilessly beaten, tortured and killed for His Name’s sake – trust me, He will repay. He sees His children, He cares for His children, He will ensure justice for His children, exactly because they are His children. He will repay.
That should strengthen our trust in Him, and our confidence to carry on turning the other cheek, blessing those who spitefully use us and praying for those who curse us.
Those really are part of the family values.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden