Moral Outrage and God’s Justice … By Chad Mangum

The current events dominating the news cycle for the past few weeks trigger lots of different emotions among different people, and even within an individual. Fear, anger, confusion, and many other complex feelings bubble up almost simultaneously. Perhaps underlying all of it is a sense of moral outrage — and this is a strangely common experience among people from virtually every viewpoint. People with nearly opposite moral views are absolutely convinced of their uprightness and the evil of their “opponents.” How can everyone feel moral outrage at the same time? How frustrating that chaos reigns while justice eludes us!

In all of this, where is God’s justice?

Let me share a few thoughts from God’s Word that have been helpful to me on this topic in the past couple of weeks, and hopefully you will find them edifying as well. First, these feelings are reflected in Scripture many times, so it isn’t strange for us to experience similar things today. The Psalms cry out for justice almost too many times to count! And perhaps the most fitting for today is the “First Complaint” in Habakkuk 1:2-4:

“O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not hear?
Or cry to you ‘Violence!’
and you will not save?

Why do you make me see iniquity,
and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.

So the law is paralyzed,
and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
so justice goes forth perverted.”

This is, in a word, bleak. Does the Lord answer these cries? Yes! In Habakkuk’s case, the Lord’s answer specific to that situation comes immediately, but there are more general answers applicable to us as well. As just two of probably hundreds of examples:

In Psalm 75:7, “it is God who executes judgment,”

In Revelation 19:2, “His judgments are true and just.”

Wait a minute. “Judgment” is usually a scary word. We hear all the time in today’s world that we shouldn’t judge others. So how is the Biblical promise of coming judgment supposed to comfort us?

We often fear the judgments of a crooked, confused, ill-informed, or biased decision maker. This is why it is critical that ultimate judgment must be left up to God precisely because of His perfect righteousness and knowledge. Only He can see clearly, know fully, and judge impartially. He is never confused. He never needs correction or ignores relevant details. He never pushes an unrighteous agenda. He is never anything but purely good. When “He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate” (Luke 1:52), we can rejoice that this was the right thing to do! This is why He is the rightful judge and why we can give thanks for His judgments.

One complicating factor: His judgments will come in His time and in His way; that is perfect, despite our finite selves wanting that justice to come now and in our way! When His timing doesn’t match ours, let’s remember that it is out of His patience and grace, not out of “slowness;” see 2 Peter 3:9. It is good to long for God’s justice, keeping in mind like the martyrs do in Revelation 6:10 that it is His right in the first place to execute it : “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before You will judge…?”

On the other hand, the word “judgment” may incite fear for another reason: because of our own sins. Indeed, having God immediately and totally execute His justice on our country would be a terrifying thing. As the author of Hebrews simply puts it in Hebrews 10:31, “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” So while we may very well desire His justice, might we also pray for His mercy on us? Though it’s undeserved, we would be utterly lost without that mercy. For those of us who rest on Christ for our salvation, how grateful we can be that God’s final judgment on us will be on the basis of Christ’s righteousness and not our feeble attempts at it! Praise God for His plan of salvation!

How, then, can believers parse through and corral the barrage of emotions we feel when presented with injustice, if such a thing is even possible?

First, I think it is important to digest everything (in the news cycle or otherwise) through a Biblical worldview, recognizing that the worldview of many influential people is anything but Biblical. When faced with a particular controversial issue, we can ask ourselves: with God and His Word as our standard for morality, what should I believe and do? How does this issue fit in with God’s story of creation, humanity’s fall, and His redemptive work? Is this a reflection of (or does it reveal something about) our sin nature as people? Does God’s Word tell me I can expect this sort of issue to crop up? Asking ourselves these and similar questions has helped me to mentally slow down and re-center on Him, our Rock. Reflecting on God’s unchangeable standards brings enormous clarity in a completely untethered world.

And secondly, I am encouraged by some specific passages remembering God’s proximity and His victory. Psalm 16:8 says “I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.” John 15:19b adds “because you [Christ’s disciples] are not of the world, but I [Jesus] chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you,” so we ought not to be surprised when Biblical values are trampled in our culture. And yet, we should “take heart, for I [Jesus] have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

He is victorious and near to us. So let’s be faithful to Him, no matter which way the wind blows our culture and its views of moral uprightness. Let’s take comfort in and long for His coming judgments, whenever and however they come. One day we will rejoice with all the saints that His justice has come!

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