Light and Lamb

In a perfect world, it’s easy to be kind to others because they are kind to us. We’re even willing to sacrifice for others because they’ve sacrificed for us. We think it’s fair to return the favor because they deserve it.

This strong sense of fairness, or justice, is part of our human nature. We can be giving to those who are giving to us.

However, in the world since the Fall, not everyone is kind, and not everyone plays fair. So what do we do when we’re faced with injustice? We have no answer in ourselves but only through God’s Son, Jesus.

Justice vs. revenge

Select any playground in any culture and watch what happens when one child shoves another. Inevitably, the shoved child will shove back. That’s also human nature.

God’s law establishes our right to be treated with dignity and respect. So when someone breaks that law by being unkind or unfair to us, we feel fully justified in returning evil for evil because we believe they deserve it. We call it justice, but it’s actually revenge. Proverbs 16:25 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

God’s law requires us to treat others with dignity and respect, period. There is no escape clause for when we are mistreated. God’s law requires us to lead in kindness, not to follow in kind. Our job is to trust that God is good and just. He sees the injustices we suffer, and He will deal with them in His time.

Apostle Paul emphasizes this:

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:19-21).

We think of ourselves as good because we desire to see justice done and good prevail. This God-given desire is truly good, but we also have other strong, conflicting desires within us. We mistakenly see ourselves as good because we fail to judge ourselves by our actions, which flow from our nature. A good nature does not return evil for evil; it overcomes evil with good. Do we do that?

The injustice in this world tests us and reveals who we truly are. When our desire for justice drives us to return evil for evil, we discover that we’re not the good people we thought we were. We want to do good, but we lack the power to do it.

Paul describes it this way in Romans 7:

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me (vv. 18-20).

Authors of evil

With just a strong sense of justice, we are powerless to remain just in an unjust world. As evil and lawlessness spread like poisonous gas, we inhale its deadly fumes. It suffocates our inclination to obey God’s moral law. Why should I follow the rules when no one else does? That’s not fair to me.

Evil persists in this world through such attitudes and how we carry them out through our actions. We become the authors of evil as we vent our anger over injustices. I’m sharp with the grocery clerk because someone stole my parking spot. Because I was sharp with him, the grocery clerk is impatient with the next customer. And on and on. Instead of overcoming evil with good, we perpetuate evil by poisoning someone else’s day because someone poisoned ours.

We’ve seen humanity’s repeated death spirals in the moral decay before the Flood and in the hardened hearts of God’s elect before Jesus’ first coming. We also see it in the love of many growing cold today in the age of Christianity before Jesus’ second coming. This stems from our human nature desiring what is just and good but lacking the power to do it. Left to itself in an unjust world, humanity abandons its own nature to embrace an evil nature. This nature self-righteously commits brazen acts of immorality, violence, and injustice — ironically, all in the name of justice.

Light of the world

Fortunately, there is good news, according to Matthew 4:16: “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (NIV). That light is Jesus.

The gospel message of Christianity is unique among all religions, which say that man saves himself by meriting his own salvation. In other words, God saves the good people. But Christianity alone says that man cannot save himself, because there are no inherently good people. God alone is good. That’s why God, in His great love, sent a Savior: the Light of the world.

Christianity isn’t self-help; we can’t fix ourselves, because goodness doesn’t come from us. God wants to heal us, but that healing requires us to trust Him for salvation.

The Gospel of John says:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (3:16, 17).

God loves us unconditionally, as Paul says: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God sent His only Son, Jesus, to pay for our sins and satisfy the demands of justice for us. Though His love is unconditional, salvation has conditions. Though God offers salvation to everyone, we receive it only by receiving Jesus as our Savior. Thanks to Jesus, we are not condemned for our sin:

“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:18, 19).

Lamb of God

There is more good news for our sinful nature. Jesus came to earth as the sacrificial lamb (John 1:29), the physical manifestation of God’s grace. In the Old Testament, lambs were sacrificed to cover the sins of the people. No one would expect God to fill that role.

While Jesus is fully God, He also became fully human (see “Q & A,” p. 11). As a human, Jesus dealt with the same limitations, troubles, temptations, and fears we have. In addition, throughout His life on earth, He carried the burden of why He came. That night in the Garden of Gethsemane, the full weight of a terrifying crucifixion bore down on Him. In His humanity, Jesus struggled for strength and asked His friends to pray with Him, but they fell asleep.

In His battle against the overwhelming impulse to save Himself from the approaching brutality, Jesus sweat great drops of blood. Terror tried to consume Him. Every fiber of His humanity screamed, “Run, run!” Oh the horror! But He stayed for you and me.

Jesus faced the wrath of a holy God against evil, borne in the cruelty of men and the brutality of a crucifixion, a just wrath that had been destined for humanity.

Growing in grace

Grace is never free; it always costs someone. The Father and Son paid that price for us. The only rational response to God’s sacrificial act of giving His only Son, and Jesus’ sacrificial act of giving Himself, is unbridled gratitude. We enter a loving relationship with God when we give our lives to the One who gave His life for us. When we do so, we enter His grace. He gives us the power of His Spirit in return.

In His grace, we can transcend our need for justice, because we’re no longer under the law. However, God doesn’t take away our rights under the law. Instead, it’s our responsibility to surrender our rights as we grow in His grace. His presence in us gives us the power to love others unconditionally the way He loves us. We can forgive because He forgave us. We can suffer injustice from others because He suffered injustice at our hands for us.

Christianity is founded, not on a principle but on the person of Jesus Christ. Through the power of His Spirit in us, His good nature grows within us as we let go of our old nature. And that is good news!

Spending Time with Jesus Christ Our Peace

Written By

Jody McCoy grew up in the Church of God (Seventh Day) in Conroe, TX, attended Spring Vale Academy for three years, and graduated from Texas A&M in 1986 with a master’s degree in electrical engineering. He worked for Advanced Micro Devices for 25 years and left AMD in 2011 to do full-time research in religion, science, and philosophy. In 2015 Jody accepted the position as executive director of the Church of God (Seventh Day). He lives in Austin, TX.

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