I’m a person who really likes justice.
Seeing someone who has been wronged restored, and the person responsible held accountable for their harmful actions.
Someone working hard all their life and finally receiving recognition and gratitude for their efforts.
I like it when good triumphs over evil.
Especially when I’m the one receiving justice.
It was a sweet day a few months ago when Words with Friends started giving recognition for all kinds of achievements. Milestones based on numbers of times doing all kinds of things.
All of a sudden the 7 years of otherwise wasted time I had invested in playing Words with Friends were vindicated by my sudden designation as “achievement level 8” with more obscure statistics racked up than a baseball player!
Who knew someone was keeping records?
All those little victories were being counted up, kept track of, and finally revealed for the whole world to see. Well, ok, probably just the handful of people I play. If they had absolutely nothing better to do with their time than look up my achievements.
I guess if I want to someday look through them all…then at least one person will know how great I am at spelling words.
Back to justice.
Statistics are impersonal. They count quantity, but don’t define quality.
Before I got into recovery I wanted certain people to pay for what they had done to me. I wanted to help identify them as abusers, lead the investigation into who else they may have victimized, round them up and let us all have our day in court to testify or defend, and let the facts be heard and acknowledged and above all else, let justice be done.
For little girl me who didn’t have a voice or words to tell.
Because wouldn’t me getting justice make up for all those years of denial and shame and guilt and self-protection?
I considered becoming a lawyer for several years so that I could bring about justice for others. And in doing so I know I would have been trying to somehow bring restitution to myself.
But do I apply that same zeal to the people I have wronged? When I realize I’ve done something that hurt someone else in some way, am I eager to apologize and make amends as quickly as possible?
And what about those long ago sins against others that I would rather forget, but that maybe they have never been able to? How could I ever bring the same justice to each of them?
Do I want the same brand of justice that I would measure out to others applied to me?
Because if you were to number the things I’ve done wrong, keep the statistics of the nasty attitudes, the condescension, the biting words, betrayals and lies and manipulations, that would be a list I wouldn’t want anyone to ever see.
But the thing is, God knows all of it. All of me. The tiny bit of good that makes it through the selfish and evil parts. And amongst the good he knows the secret delight of the occasional selfless, loving act.
Mercy undoes me. When I started to face my own guilt, truly deserved guilt, and saw the mercy God has shown me, it changed me.
One of the hardest things I’ve ever done was to forgive my abusers.
And there is no way I could have fully done that on my own. Because in my mind, I would never get the justice I deserved if I gave them forgiveness they never admitted they needed.
There’s a verse that undoes me every time I really take it in.
Romans 5:8: 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Where is the justice in that? That even when I had no clue that I needed to be rescued, that I needed forgiveness, Jesus paid for my sin.
If God pursues me like this, if he forgives me and decides that because of Jesus’ death on the cross, I don’t have to make restitution, I don’t have to pay for my crimes, then what does that mean for me?
How can I demand justice from other people?
Because when I look only at the cold hard facts, my abusers may deserve to suffer the consequences of their sins against me. But when I turn it around on myself, I would want mercy.
I came to a place a year or so into recovery where not only had I been able to forgive them, God gave me the desire to pray for their healing and salvation.
It had been impossible for me to take that step on my own. I had genuinely forgiven, which to me meant that I no longer wanted to see them suffer for what they had done to me. But was I willing for them to ever feel the same joy and peace I have in my relationship with Jesus?
Could I really, truly, let them off the hook?
Not long after that I had occasion to see several of my abusers all together. They were, each and every one of them, broken, depressed, anxious, hopeless.
And I realized that was the justice I had dreamed of for all those years.
I no longer felt the need to pursue it. Not for me. Because of how much they seemed to have paid for it throughout their lives.
I was so thankful God had replaced my heart of stone with a heart of flesh that could feel compassion for these people.
Just the other day a dear friend, a brother to me truly, gave me the gift of a few minutes conversation, just catching up. Warm hugs, true love felt and expressed.
The thing is, he knew me when. When I was not interested in God’s plans for my life. When I was living for my own pleasure and plans, selfishly pursuing what I wanted.
And he’s known me ever since. And he still loves me.
If a friend can choose to forget and move beyond the bad they know we are capable of, how much more gracious is God when he throws our sins as far as the east is from the west?
So I do love justice. But not my kind. God’s kind.
Someday in heaven I may meet my abusers.
Because God doesn’t want anyone to perish. He’d rather everyone came to repentance.
And that’s the justice I pray for them now.