justice-statue-dublin-ireland-goddess

Is Longing for Justice Inconsistent with Love? A Response to Paul Copan (#3)

In a paper delivered at the Evangelical Theological Society in November, Paul Copan spent a good amount of time arguing that aspects of the NT conflict with the understanding of love that I espouse in Crucifixion of the Warrior God (CWG).

For example, Copan cites the parable Jesus told in Luke 18:1-8 about a widow who wouldn’t leave a certain unjust judge alone until he heard her case, because she wanted justice against her opponent. Similarly, Copan cites Revelation 6:9-10 which depicts martyrs crying out to God, asking him, “how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?” And in Revelation 18:20 the saints are told to rejoice because God has judged Babylon. Copan argues that this longing to see wrongdoers punished and this rejoicing when they are judged is inconsistent with the view of love I espouse in CWG.

In response, I don’t see how the longing for justice to be done in the face of evil conflicts with anything I say in CWG. Indeed, I think the moral center of every morally healthy human being longs for the moral scales of the universe to be balanced. The thought that those who inflict suffering on innocent people would never have to answer for it grates on our internal moral compass. This is what leads most people to feel that violence against wrongdoers is justified. Yet, Paul tells disciples of Jesus that we are to never repay evil with evil by taking justice into our own hands and retaliating. We are to instead leave all vengeance to God (Rom 12:17-19). Trusting that the Judge of the earth will right every wrong in the end, we are to surrender to God our impulse to carry out justice on our own. The material Copan cites simply expresses the longing for God to carry this out, and it conflicts with nothing I said in CWG.

One more very important point needs to be made, however. The longing to see justice done becomes vindictive and ungodly if it is not accompanied by an even more profound longing to see wrongdoers repent, receive forgiveness, and be transformed by the love of God into the likeness of Christ. Paul teaches that love believes the best and hopes for the best for everyone (Rom 13:7), and we are called to follow Jesus’ example when he prayed for the forgiveness of those who crucified him (Lk 23:34). This longing for the forgiveness and transformation of those who perpetrate evil doesn’t conflict with our innate longing to see justice done. It simply reflects the more profound hope of love that the judgment of evil doers wouldn’t be necessary.

But if love leads us to hope that judgment will be unnecessary, should we not be saddened when it is necessary? So how can the saints in Revelation be told to rejoice over the judgment that is falling on Babylon?

The answer is that throughout Revelation, Babylon symbolizes the political wing of Satan’s regime. It represents all the kingdoms of the world that are under the deception of the Beast and that therefore trust in military power rather than in the power of self-sacrificial love as embodied in the slain lamb and its followers. The saints in Revelation are thus not rejoicing over any actual human beings coming under judgment; they are rejoicing because the power-hungry way of trying to rule the world, which has caused such massive violence and suffering throughout history, has finally self-destructed. And this self-destruction is the just judgment of God.

Photo on VisualHunt

Related Reading

A Cruciform Dialectic

One of the most important aspects of God’s action on Calvary, I believe, is this: God revealed himself not just by acting toward humans, but by allowing himself to be acted on by humans as well as the fallen Powers. God certainly took the initiative in devising the plan of salvation that included the Son…

What Is The Warfare Worldview?

Greg has written extensively on something he calls the Warfare Worldview. Many today believe that everything that takes place in the world is ultimately part of a divine blueprint and contributes in some way to the glory of God. As opposed to this view, Greg argues that wills other than God’s are responsible for evil…

God’s Love is Cruciform

Paul instructs us in what it means to follow Jesus, when he stated, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Eph 5:1-2). Here Paul defines what it means to…

The Only Thing That Matters Is Love: The Kingdom of God (Part 3)

To say that living in Calvary-quality love is the most important thing in our life is to grossly understate its importance. This stands in distinction from how we typically define the Kingdom of God. But it stands in line with the fact that Jesus is the Kingdom of God. Paul says the “the only thing…

Standing Our Ground Together

  Osheta Moore is someone we’ve featured here before. She’s a lovely, thoughtful, passionate African-American woman of God ministering with her husband T.C. Moore in Boston. Osheta has been featuring a series called Standing Our Ground…In Prayer. In the wake of the tragic and senseless death of Jordan Davis, she struggled to articulate the grief and…

On Renunciation

  Jonathan Kos-Read via Compfight We are bombarded daily with messages that urge us to satisfy every desire we might have. That’s what consumers do. And that’s exactly what the world has reduced us to: consumers. But what about Jesus’ words in Luke 9:23: Then Jesus said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must…