We have been getting glimpses of the recently submitted “Mueller Report.” Those favoring President Trump and those opposing him have sought to leverage the report for their political agendas.
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All sides in the national debate maintain that there have been ethical improprieties, whether on the part of the White House and its key allies, or the President’s opponents, whom he claims seek to smear him.
It got me to thinking about divine judgment. There is something within each of us that longs for justice and judgment that rights wrongs and brings equitable closure. Our courts and departments of justice were established to maintain order and right wrongs, though many will debate their fairness and effectiveness.
Many will also debate concepts of deity and how fair and effective the gods are in their judgments on humanity. Such differences of opinion extend to the God of the Bible. Here are some brief reflections on what biblical justice assumes about God’s character:
First, God is not partisan, but objective in judgment. The Bible teaches that “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34; cf. Romans 2:11-16). In other words, God does not play favorites. While God chooses and elects people and nations, judgment starts in God’s own house among God’s people (1 Peter 4:17).
Second, God is not blind, but sees all. The Book of Common Prayer so eloquently makes this point: “Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid.” It is little wonder that the prayer continues on with these words: “Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord.” Anyone who truly realizes that God searches our hearts and uncovers all secrets would desire for God to cleanse and purify us from the inside out.
Third, God is not quick to judge, but long-suffering. God’s judgment will arrive in due course. Scripture teaches that God’s justice is not hasty, but patient and purposeful. Whether we consider the Amorites whose sin had not yet reached full measure, or the Ninevites whom God wanted to spare, to Jonah’s chagrin (Jonah 4:1-2), God operates methodically, not rashly. God’s preferred method of engagement is mercy: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God’s reflex action is mercy, but God reserve the right to judge in keeping with the fullness of God’s holy being. As God declared to Moses who beseeched God to reveal his glory to Moses, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7). God leads with mercy, but will also judge severely in accordance with justice.
God disclosed the divine glory to Moses on a mountain. Just as it took time for Moses to bring God’s Word to the people down in the valley below, it takes time for justice to move from the mountain streams to the rivers in the plains. But justice will make its way in full life-giving force. This point brings to mind Amos 5:24: “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).
Martin Luther King, Jr. who referenced this text in Amos also claimed, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” King also drew attention to the following biblical conviction: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). King was surrounded by social inequities, but never allowed injustice to make him cynical. He remained convinced that God’s justice will prevail and triumph in the end.
For those of us who do not question or debate God’s character or the fairness and efficacy of God’s ways, as revealed in the Bible, may we approach the pursuit of justice here below in the following manner: May we pray in keeping with God’s character that the truth will be made known and that equitable justice will prevail in our courts of law, including determinations made in relation to the Mueller Report. May we also pray in keeping with the Book of Common Prayer’s realization that God knows all hearts and deeds. May each and all of us desire to know and fear God, seek cleansing from sin, and perfectly and worthily magnify God’s name.