Author: 
John Piper
Date Given: 
September 12, 2001

Someone asked me after our Tuesday prayer service in response to
the terrorist attack, "Can we pray for justice, and yet love our
enemy at the same time?" The answer is yes.

But let's start with our own guilt. Christians know that if God
dealt with us only according to justice, we would perish under his
condemnation. We are guilty of treason against God in our sinful
pride and rebellion. We deserve only judgment. Justice alone would
condemn us to everlasting torment.

But God does not deal with us only in terms of justice. Without
compromising his justice he "justifies the ungodly" (Romans 4:5).
That sounds unjust. And it would be if it were not for
what God did in the life and death of Jesus Christ. The mercy of
God moved him to send the Son of God to bear the wrath of God so as
to vindicate the justice of God when he justifies sinners who have
faith in Jesus. So we have our very life because of mercy
and justice (Romans 3:25-26). They met in the cross.

So we are not quick to demand justice unmingled with mercy.
Jesus demands, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute
you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for
He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain
on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Mathew 5:44-45). And, of
course Jesus modeled this for us as a perfect man. "While we
were enemies
we were reconciled to God through the death of
His Son" (Romans 5:10). And even as he died for his enemies he
prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what
they are doing" (Luke 23:34).

So the resounding command of the apostles is, "Bless those who
persecute you; bless and do not curse. . . . Never pay back evil
for evil to anyone. . . . Never take your own revenge, beloved, but
leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is
mine, I will repay,' says the Lord. 'But if your enemy is hungry,
feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink'" (Romans
12:14-20). When we live this way we magnify the glory of God's
mercy and the all-satisfying Treasure that he is to our souls. We
show that because of his supreme value to us, we do not need the
feeling of personal vengeance in order to be content.

But it does not compromise this truth to say that God should
also be glorified as the one who governs the world and delegates
some of his authority to civil states. Therefore some of God's
divine rights as God are given to governments for the purposes of
restraining evil and maintaining social order under just laws. This
is what Paul means when he writes, "There is no authority except
from God, and those which exist are established by God. . . . [This
authority is] a minister of God to you for good . . . it does not
bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger
who brings wrath on the one who practices evil" (Romans
13:1-4).

God wills that human justice hold sway among governments, and
between citizens and civil authority. He does not prescribe that
governments always turn the other cheek. The government "does not
bear the sword for nothing." Police have the God-given right to use
force to restrain evil and bring law-breakers to justice. And
legitimate states have the God-given right to restrain
life-threatening aggression and bring criminals to justice. If
these truths are known, this God-ordained exercise of divine
prerogative would glorify the justice of God who mercifully ordains
that the flood of sin and misery be restrained in the earth.

Therefore, we will magnify the mercy of God by praying
for our enemies to be saved and reconciled to God. At the personal
level we will be willing to suffer for their everlasting good, and
we will give them food and drink. We will put away malicious hatred
and private vengeance. But at the public level we will also magnify
the justice of God by praying and working for justice to
be done on the earth, if necessary through wise and measured force
from God-ordained authority.

Seeking to magnify ALL of God's glories,

Pastor John

© 2014 Bethlehem Baptist Church