The concept of Justice runs throughout the Bible and serves as the engine that makes things work. For example, there are three places in the Bible where we are told to love our enemies. Jesus, Solomon, and Paul all said for us to do it. Why?
When we give someone a value, justice says we are owed a value because EVERYTHING has to equal out. Likewise, when we take a value from someone, justice says we will eventually pay a value of EXACTLY the same amount. So, what happens when we give a value to our enemies?
Justice would say our enemies should pay us back. However, our enemies are the LAST people who will repay us. If our enemies won’t give us a value back, from where are we going to get the value? The only place is God. Jesus said this!
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back; and your reward will be great…” (Luke 6:35)
In fact, Jesus said there is no reward from God for being kind to your friends…because they will be kind back.
“When you make a dinner or a supper, don’t call your friends, nor your brothers, your kinsmen, nor rich neighbors, or perhaps they might also return the favor, and pay you back.” (Luke 14:12)
Furthermore, they may return greater value to us and we are the ones who owe! Being kind to people who can’t or won’t pay you back is one sure way to get a value from God. God wants us to not repay people with evil so we can receive a value from God.
Notice how the New Testament never says to take revenge on someone. We are humans and prone to err. If we try to administer our own justice and are wrong, we will be due a greater penalty because of justice. For example, Jesus warned us not to pull up the tares because we might accidentally pull up the wheat. (Matthew 13:29) So who gets the revenge?
“Don’t seek revenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to God’s wrath. For it is written, “Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.” Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing so, you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12: 19-21)
Paul says loving your enemy causes God’s judgment to fall on them. Some people want to believe this passage means it actually goes well for the enemy because he has “coals to warm his head through the desert at night”. THIS is a perfect example of comparative thinking. The reality is this passage speaks of coals of FIRE and is mentioned in the context of God handling evil through justice BECAUSE we are good to them.
God always tells us to be kind so that God can handle it. If we take a value from people who mistreat us, then God CAN’T justly move against the offending party! Religions that say it is okay for individuals to resolve a personal injustice are short-term and contradict a God that is Big Picture and Long Term.
So, which one is it? Do we love our enemies in order to get a reward, like Jesus said? Or do we love our enemies so that God can move against our enemies, like Paul said?
“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat. If he is thirsty, give him water to drink: for you will heap coals of fire on his head, and Yahweh will reward you.” (Proverbs 25: 21-22)
It looks like both are right! We are supposed to love others and not try to get our own justice so that God can handle it and we can get a reward.
However, when people are wronged, they do get their justice apart from God through any number of ways. For example, they attack back, take “an eye for an eye”, they badmouth the person, or they have ill feelings toward them. If they take any of these actions to an extreme, they may even end up deserving a punishment from God!
Remember, this world is not the end. Ultimately, we have a choice whether we want to be paid or punished in this world or the next. If we decide to avoid our punishment here, then we will be punished after this life.