Fighting Injustice with Injustice
In a few minutes, we’re going to have our Scripture reading, and then we will, Lord willing, finish the last two chapters in our study of the book of Judges. Before we do that, I want to talk to you about three things.
One, children’s ministry opportunities — we have lots of spaces in Nursery, World View this summer, kidstuff next fall. And I know it’s hard to even imagine thinking about next fall. But during COVID, we had a number of our volunteers step out for obvious reasons, and some have not returned. And so there are some spaces for you to have an opportunity to fill in and participate, both this summer with World View and in the fall as teachers, helpers, even spare parts. Ruthie, our Children’s Ministry Director, will be having a baby soon, June 14th. And so, it would be a huge encouragement to her if we had a glut of children’s workers. Wouldn’t that be cool? Don’t you love that word, glut? It sounds so bad, but it is so good in this case. More children’s ministry workers than we know where to plug in — that would be great!
So, if you are willing even just to find out more, … I know in the fall you don’t even, you’re not even thinking about that. None of us are. You don’t know your schedule. But if you could go on our website, click on the Need2Know. You can even do it right now and then click on this slide. You will see a link to Susan Gilbert, who is Ruthie’s assistant, and just send her a note — “want to know more” or “willing to help?” And that just begins the process. If there’s a way at whatever level. A spare part is just someone who says I’m willing to fill in if something happens and somebody is needed. Or there are volunteer support roles and then there are volunteers needed to teach. If you can, please jump in there. That would be a huge blessing to Ruthie, to our team, and to our entire church, to the next generation. And you will notice, you can send an email. But just to be straightforward, the process for new volunteers is not super easy, and we want you to know that’s intentional. We have lots of safety steps in place to protect our children. And so anybody who really loves and wants to help kids, you get it. But it is a sacrifice well worth making.
Number two, thirty years ago this next month, at the end of the evening service — this was back when we used to have Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night — after I preached, some of the men said, “Can you and Karen step out for a minute.” And then I think it was your dad [directed to someone in the church] who asked the question, “How many of you want Peter to be our pastor?” That was the process. It was very formal. It was not. And I wasn’t in there. Karen and I were out standing in the parking lot. But you can imagine people were looking at each other saying, “Well, I don’t know that we have any other options. There’s not a line of people. And so, how many are willing and feel that God is calling Peter here?” And apparently the campaign worked, and there were enough votes. And you all took a crazy risk — twenty-seven years old, looked twelve, knew nothing. We hadn’t formed as a church. We were meeting illegally. We didn’t have elders; obviously didn’t have a pastor.
And it was just so … In one sense, it was just so beautiful because none of us planned this thing. There was just such a — not that planning is not beautiful — but it was just so obvious God was up to something. And I just want to take a few minutes to say thank you to you all, because I consider it to be just an unspeakable privilege to serve together with you, to be on the elder team, to be with this amazing staff. And unfortunately, I interact with a lot of pastors and ministry leaders who have a lot of nightmare stories to tell. And a lot of them, especially over the last couple of years, are burning out or wanting to step down. And I just want you to know that is not my experience. I feel very spoiled by you, very loved, and I love you dearly. And this is a huge privilege. It sounds like I’m about to die. Maybe.
But the elders have given me a sabbatical this summer — super kind of them, for all summer! And so, I will be stepping away from pastoral responsibilities, and you’re going to get a break. And obviously we’re blessed with an amazing team that will continue things. I have some prayer and search-heart goals. All those kind of things that I love to do. But one of my main goals is to really love my wife well, who has been such an unbelievably faithful partner through all these decades. We will be heading to MD Anderson a week from today. It was just amazing providence. The first opening they had — this is a hospital that specializes in the kind of cancer she has — but the first opening they had was June 6, which is the first day of my sabbatical. So we plan. God really plans.
So, we thank you for your prayers in all of this. We aren’t planning to go away on a big exotic trip or anything just because we’re uncertain as to what all that’s going to bring about. So, we’re hoping to worship with you when we are in town, not as a pastor, as a member. I was a member here before I was a pastor here, or actually I was coming here before I became a pastor. I’m even hoping to volunteer at World View a Sunday or two, because I normally can’t do that. But I just wanted to say thank you, and we will give updates periodically through church email so that you can know what’s going on because I know many of you are praying for Karen’s health, and we can tell.
Third, I wanted to summarize the schedule this summer. I’m very excited about this. We will finish the chapters in Judges today, but then Matt will preach a Gospel in Judges summary message next week. And then Ryan the following week will do two more Formations. If you remember right at the beginning of the year, I did two Formation sessions on Praying God’s Word. And I said we’re going to sprinkle these Formations — these discipleship messages –throughout this year and next year. So, two more coming up on the way food forms us. Ryan’s going to talk about food as fuel, feasting, and fasting. And then the following week, we begin Wisdomfest, five weeks on “The Table,” “The Table” as a point of connection to the heart of Jesus with one another, to the poor, to the stranger, all about something that early Christians and the Bible is just so passionate about, Christian hospitality.
This struck me this past week. I was in 2 Samuel 9 in my Bible reading where David became king. And the job of the king typically is to kill the sons of the former king so they won’t threaten his reign, but instead he invites Mephibosheth, who is one of the sons of Saul, to come. And he says, “You will always eat at my table.” It’s hugely significant. Someone who thought he was going to be executed … not just not executed, but invited to the table to eat as a king’s son with the king. That’s our story if you’re a follower of Jesus. Deserve to be executed, instead invited to the table as daughters and sons of the king. So, we will explore that in Wisdomfest this summer.
Then at the end of July, we will begin I Peter: Exiles. This book is written to exiles who were wondering who are we, where do we fit in? We don’t really fit in here. It’s often very hard. We’re not home yet. What does that mean? Our women went through I Peter in their Bible study a year ago, and we’ve been praying about doing this book for a long time. We’ve done parts of it. We’ve never done I Peter. So, I am so excited to dive into I Peter, end of the summer into the fall.
For today, if you would stand with me in honor of God’s Word, Josh is going to come and read some sections. You might want to follow along on the screen because he will skip a few sections. But he will read the bulk of Judges 20 and 21. If for medical reasons, you need to sit down, feel free. This is the Word of the Lord.
“And the men of Israel drew up to the battle line against them at Gibeah. The people of Benjamin came out of Gibeah and destroyed on that day 22,000 men of the Israelites. But the people, the men of Israel, took courage, and again formed the battle line in the same place where they had formed it on the first day. And the people of Israel went up and wept before the Lord until evening. And they inquired of the Lord, ‘Shall we again draw near to the fight against our brothers, the people of Benjamin?’ And the Lord said, ‘Go up against them.’
“So the people of Israel came near against the people of Benjamin the second day. And Benjamin went against them out of Gibeah the second day, and destroyed 18,000 men of the people of Israel. All these were men who drew the sword. And then all the people of Israel, the whole army, went up and came to Bethel and wept. They sat there before the Lord and fasted that day until evening, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. And the people of Israel inquired of the Lord (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, and Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, ministered before it in those days) saying, ‘Shall we go out once more to battle against our brothers, the people of Benjamin, or shall we cease?’ And the Lord said, ‘Go up, for tomorrow I will give them into your hand.’
“So Israel set men in ambush around Gibeah…. And the Lord defeated Benjamin before Israel, and the people of Israel destroyed 25,100 men of Benjamin that day. All these men were men who drew the sword. So the people of Benjamin saw that they were defeated…. Eighteen thousand men of Benjamin fell, all of them men of valor. And they turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon. Five thousand men of them were cut down in the highways. And they were pursued hard to Gidom, and 2,000 men of them were struck down. So that all that fell that day of Benjamin were 25,000 men who drew the sword, all of them men of valor. But 600 men turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon and remained at the rock of Rimmon four months. And the men of Israel turned back against the people of Benjamin and struck them with the edge of the sword, the city, men and beasts and all that they found. And all the towns that they had found, they set on fire.
“Now the men of Israel had sworn at Mizpah, ‘No one of us shall give his daughter in marriage to Benjamin.’ And the people came to Bethel and sat there till evening before God, and they lifted up their voices and wept bitterly. And they said, ‘O Lord, the God of Israel, why has this happened in Israel, that today there should be one tribe lacking in Israel?’ …
“And they said, ‘What one is there of the tribes of Israel that did not come up to the Lord to Mizpah?’ And behold, no one had come to the camp, from Jabesh-gilead, to the assembly…. So the congregation sent 12,000 of their bravest men there and commanded them, ‘Go and strike the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword; also the women and the little ones. This is what you shall do: every male and every woman that has lain with a male you shall devote to destruction.’ And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead 400 young virgins who had not known a man by lying with him, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.
“Then the whole congregation sent word to the people of Benjamin who were at the rock of Rimmon and proclaimed peace to them. And Benjamin returned at that time. And they gave them the women who they had saved alive from the women of Jabesh-gilead, but they were not enough for them. And the people had compassion on Benjamin because the Lord had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.
“Then the elders of the congregation said, ‘What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?’ And they said, ‘There must be an inheritance for the survivors of Benjamin, that a tribe not be blotted out from Israel. Yet we cannot give them wives from our daughters.’ For the people of Israel had sworn, ‘Cursed be he who gives a wife to Benjamin.’ So they said, ‘There is the yearly feast of the Lord at Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, on the east of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebanon.’ And they commanded the people of Benjamin, saying, ‘Go and lie in ambush in the vineyards and watch. If the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards and snatch each man his wife from the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. And when their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, we’ll say to them, ‘Grant them graciously to us, because we did not take for each man his wife in battle, neither did you give them to them, else you would now be guilty.’ And the people of Benjamin did so and took their wives, according to their number, from the dancers whom they carried off. Then they went and returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and lived in them. And the people of Israel departed from there at that time, every man to his tribe and family, and they went out from there every man to his inheritance.
In those days, there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
This is the Word of the Lord. Please be seated.
Thank you, Josh. Does that chapter raise a few questions? Oh, my word! What is happening here? Why is this in the Bible? Judges 20 and 21 are describing the national reaction to the rape and murder of the Levite’s concubine in chapter 19. He sent parts of her throughout Israel in order to prompt a response to this atrocity that occurred in chapter 19. We talked about that last week. And what a response he got! Look at [Judges]19:30.
“All who saw it said, ‘Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day; consider it, take counsel, and speak.’”
The national reaction could be summarized as both good and bad. So, let’s start with the good. Four examples. Number 1, Israel is united as one man. This expression appears in verse 1, verse 8, and verse 11. They are cooperating for the first time in a long time, and even after the battle, when they’ve been killing each other, they begin to weep at the end that one of the tribes of Israel could be destroyed. So, there is a strong national identity in a day of fragmentation, which seems good.
Secondly, Israel is willing to confront evil. Last week we ended the message by focusing in on one Hebrew word, “nebalah,” which is the word “outrage, a gross disorder.” And it appeared twice in chapter 19. It appears twice in chapter 20, verse 6, “they have committed abomination and,” (there it is) “outrage in Israel.” And then verse 10, “the outrage that they have committed in Israel.” So, the nation is rightly outraged by these events, and they desire, verse 13 of chapter 20, to “purge the evil from Israel.” This seems good.
Number 3, what is good in these chapters? Israel inquires of the Lord in verse 18, 23, and 27. Three times they sought the Lord’s direction. They even offered burnt offerings twice. That seems good in light of the darkness of these times. However, it’s not all good. When they first sought the Lord in chapter 20, verse 18, it seems that they had already decided to go to war. They were simply coming to the Lord and saying, “Who should go up first?” That raises a huge question, which is a key to understanding the events here. Does God sometimes direct us to do what we have already decided to do as a form of judgment? That seems to be what’s happening here. Israel was determined to go to war. God said, “Go for it.”
Number 4, Israel persists despite heavy losses. On the first day, Israel lost 22,000 men. Second day, 18,000 men. Yet they were still willing to go to battle on the third day. So whatever else that is, there seems to be some fortitude, some courage. And it’s important for us, in the midst of dark days, to look for bright spots. For example, if you keep reading through Judges, you encounter the book of Ruth next. Ruth begins chapter 1, verse 1,
“In the days when the judges ruled.”
All the events of Ruth occurred during the Judges period, which I find hugely encouraging. Because Ruth is a story, a beautiful story of redemption. So, even in the darkest days, God is up to really good things, doing beautiful things. Remember that today, all the time. That’s the good.
Now we need to look at the bad. Despite the good, there’s a lot of bad here. Four examples — number 1, no one is taking responsibility for his own sin. Let me show you three examples of this. Israel is shocked by Gibeah’s sin, but blind to their own. You say, what is Israel’s sin? Well, a couple of weeks ago, we saw Dan, the tribe of Dan, reject their inheritance (it was too hard), move up north, wipe out the people of Laish, set up an altar of false worship. This country is messed up. Not just one tribe, not just one people, like the town of Gibeah. This calls for national repentance. But there is a blindness to their own sin.
Another example of this is the Levite alters the story to evade responsibility. Look at verse 5 of chapter 20. See if you notice the account. And for those who were here last week, remember what actually happened. Verse 5,
“And the leaders of Gibeah …”
This is the Levite explaining what happened.
“… rose against me and surrounded the house against me by night. They meant to kill me, and they violated my concubine, and she is dead.”
What did he leave out there? He threw her out to the mob! Isn’t it interesting how selective our memory can be in a way that makes us look a little better and them look a little worse?
Third, these are examples of the fact that no one is taking responsibility. The leaders of Gibeah and the men of Benjamin gather to fight rather than to repent. Chapter 20 verse 13,
“‘Now, therefore …”
This is Israel calling Benjamin. Benjamin is the tribe. Gibeah is a Benjaminite city.
“Therefore give up the men, the worthless fellows of Gibeah, that we may put them to death and purge evil from Israel.’ But the Benjaminites would not listen to the voice of their brothers, the people of Israel.”
This is another tragic example of the fact that blood often runs thicker than truth. That when we have a loved one who goes astray and does wrong, sometimes it’s easier for us to change our convictions than to lovingly call them to repent. No one is taking responsibility.
Number 2, the people (This is the bad) the people of God are attacking one another. They’re attacking each other. No one is fighting the enemies of God. They’re fighting each other as enemies. Benjamin, for example, with far fewer men, inflicts massive casualties on Israel, 40,000 in two days. Why? Well, the battle occurred in Gibeah, which is a hilly terrain, giving the Benjaminites a tactical advantage. They know the topography; therefore, they have home-field advantage. But by the third day, the Israelites used deception to lure the Benjaminites away from the city, away from their fortresses and hideouts, and then they wipe them out. But they didn’t stop there. They then went to the other Benjaminite cities and wiped out men, women, children, and burned the cities.
Archeologists have discovered a layer of ash from 1100 BC in the place that Gibeah used to be. The people of God are attacking each other. Over 65,000 men died in battle in those three days, not counting all the men, women, and children slaughtered in Benjamin. So, the people of God are killing each other.
Number 3, Israel slaughters the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead. Now Jabesh-gilead was northeast of Gibeah. You’ll notice if you look at this map at Mizpah, which is almost in the middle, and then follow the arrow up and to the right, you will see Jabesh-gilead. Now, for those who have been to Israel, if you go to the very end of the ancient city, a street that goes through Beit She’an, and then you climb to the top of the mound at the end of the street, you can look off in the distance. I took this video a few months ago when I was there. You can look off in the distance (very professionally done) and see that’s Jabesh-gilead off in the distance. It’s a beautiful area. But because the people of Jabesh-gilead didn’t respond to the call of arms at Mizpah, Israel sent 12,000 elite troops to slaughter everyone in the village and to spare 400 young women, who would be given to the Benjaminite soldiers who were still alive, hiding at the rock of Rimmon, which is a fortress sort of place. But then someone wasn’t good at math, and they realized we’re 200 young women short. And so, we need to come up with another brilliant plan.
And that leads to the fourth atrocity. The Benjaminites kidnap 200 women at Shiloh. Now, you notice the twisted thinking that is occurring here. And the narrator of Judges wants us to feel the weight of this. Israel had vowed not to give any of their daughters in marriage to a Benjaminite man as a curse for what they had done in Gibeah. But then they realized, wait, we’re going to be one tribe short. We only have 600 Benjaminites who we haven’t killed yet. So, we need to find wives for them. So, when they die, they’ll have descendants. And they only came up with 400 when they slaughtered the people of Jabesh-gilead. So, we need 200 more. Well, there’s a yearly feast, and the young women come out and dance. And so they told the Benjaminites, “Hey, we vowed not to give them our daughters, but we didn’t vow not to allow them to kidnap our daughters.” And so, the Benjaminites went to the festival and snatched 200 young women to become their wives. This is horrific moral logic. And the book ends, chapter 21:25.
“In those days, there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
And if you remember last week, that is a political statement — where you have no central authority, you tend to have social anarchy. But it’s also a theological statement, primarily a theological statement similar to Hosea 10:3,
“For now they will say: ‘We have no king, for we do not fear the Lord; and a king — what could he do for us?’ They utter mere words; with empty oaths they make covenants; so judgment …”
Think justice. It’s the word justice.
“…springs up like poisonous weeds in the furrows of the field.”
No fear of the Lord will result in no basis for true justice. Justice will become like poisonous weeds. It looks like grain, but it’s not grain. It looks like justice, but it’s not justice. The medicine has become the malady. The remedy is the poison. And rather than true justice, which produces life sustaining grain, false justice produces what is poisonous and bitter. Unjust justice, perverted justice simply produces more injustice. And that is why the theme of Judges 20 and 21 is fighting injustice with injustice. Israel rightly identified injustice. What was done to the concubine was unspeakably unjust, and they rightly, at the end of chapter 19, call one another to “consider, to take counsel, and to speak.” But because their worship is disordered — no fear of God — their justice is distorted. And so their response to injustice simply brings more injustice.
Let me show you the examples we just saw. Think of the 65,000 men killed in battle. Every one of their families lost a husband, lost a father. The older men and women and children of Benjamin — murdered. Think of the people of Jabesh-gilead — slaughtered. Think of the 400 young women given to the Benjaminites and the 200 young women of Shiloh forcibly made wives. This is essentially human trafficking. Trauma, casualties everywhere, multiplying … notice, all from the injustice, which was real, that the concubine experienced.
British historian Arnold Toynbee, after chronicling the rise and fall of 23 civilizations throughout history, concluded,
“Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder.”
Generally speaking, civilizations kill themselves. They are not killed. How do they kill themselves? Well, he records several reasons. One key one is the cultural elite become parasitic. That’s fascinating. But the other one that’s relevant here is, he says that the society begins to respond wrongly to the challenges it faces. wherever you look, whatever culture you live in, you’re going to see injustice. And the way you respond to that injustice will actually produce more or less depending on the response. You will either multiply or mitigate injustice.
So, I want to give talk for a few minutes about three examples today of how we might be fighting injustice with producing more of it. Number 1 — and you’re going to notice they move from very national, big, to church, and then right home to our hearts. First example is racism. Our nation has a long history of racial injustice. And we must never stop seeking justice for all. The way we’ve often described it is continually growing in the ability to listen, to lament, and to love. And by love, we don’t just mean have a warm feeling. Actually do something to help continually. We’re not going to stop.
But there are movements that are quite dominant, especially on college campuses that are, in my view, fighting injustice by producing more of it. One example Ibram X. Kendi is a professor at Boston University and a leader of what is often called today the anti-racist movement. In his book, How to Be an Anti-Racist, he argues this.
“The only remedy to racist discrimination is anti-racist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”
Now discrimination as he’s defining it, because he’s talking about past discrimination, future discrimination. Past injustice. The only remedy to past injustice is future injustice. If you ever wonder why we as a country seem sometimes to not be moving forward in racial reconciliation, this is one of the reasons, in my view. Now there are others. Majority cultures don’t tend to move forward in these areas very quickly. So, there are big reasons there that we need to talk about. But today we’re talking about fighting injustice with more injustice. And many, I believe, are seeking to use the malady as the medicine, which just produces more malady.
Let me show you a striking contrast between Kendi’s strategy and Dr. King’s strategy. He said this.
“Here’s the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view, we may indeed see the basic weakness of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.”
That is just stunningly brilliant and humble. He concludes here.
“We adopt the means of non-violence because our end is a community at peace with itself.”
Do you see? The goal is not revenge. The goal is to become a community of peace. That is a very different goal than to seek to crush my enemy, to say, “Well, you had your day, we have ours. We’re going to make you pay.” What that does is it just fosters more victims. injustice produces more injustice.
Second example, abuse. Specifically response to abuse. This past week, the Southern Baptist Convention released an independent report they commissioned on themselves regarding sexual abuse. Al Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, the oldest institution in the SBC, called the findings
“devastating, heartbreaking and infuriating,”
Russell Moore wrote after reading the report.
“[A]nyone who cares about heaven ought to be mad as hell.”
Why? Because the report demonstrates that one injustice was often met with more injustice. People took advantage. People in power took advantage of women and children. Some survivors experience more trauma from the people who were supposed to help than the actual abuser. Deflecting, stonewalling, circling wagons, shaming the victim. Some leaders were far more concerned with protecting their reputation than in protecting children or pursuing justice. The program became more important than the people. So, the show must go on at all cost. And the cost was high. And in the end, injustice is simply multiplied.
Now, some of you may remember, if you’ve been around here for a while, our study of the Book of Malachi in Malachi chapters 1 and 2, God confronts his priests. He essentially goes after them for three things — one for polluting the sacrifices, two for teaching with partiality, and three, for breaking their marriage covenants. In other words, mistreating people they were in covenant with. But he makes this remarkable statement in chapter 1:10.
“Oh, that there were one among you who would shut the doors. That you might not kindled the fire on my altar in vain. I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.”
Those are breathtakingly strong words. God is saying, I would rather — and this is hard for us to take in, because we don’t have a physical temple, and we don’t get the significance of that physical temple. But God is saying, “I would rather someone shut the doors of my temple than my name be polluted or my people be harmed.” And this is something I think about a lot when I and other church leaders here, we feel that pressure to just sweep something under the rug. It’s hard to deal with injustice. It’s humiliating. What are people going to think about us as a church or the people of God or the name of Christ or the advancement of the gospel?
And God is saying, listen, if you won’t deal with injustice justly, I would rather have your doors shut than to continue polluting my name or harming my people. God has no problem shutting the doors of North Hills Church. He doesn’t need us if we’re more interested in maintaining a reputation than in pursuing true justice. This report is a call for all Christians, not just Southern Baptists, to seek true justice.
And the third one is very personal. Justified self-centeredness. For those of you have been around a while, you’ve heard me talk about this before, but it’s been a long time. It was many decades ago. And I can tell you exactly where I was sitting when I first read a section out of Larry Crabb’s book, Men and Women, and encountered this definition. And this was at a time when Karen’s and my relationship was hanging by a thread. That’s being very optimistic. Not doing well at all. And the Spirit of God gripped me with this. Crabb says it this way.
“The greatest obstacle to building truly good relationships is justified self-centeredness…”
Well, what is that?
“… a selfishness that deep in our souls feels entirely reasonable and therefore acceptable in light of how we’ve been treated.”
Now all of us will say, “Oh, yeah, I’m selfish.” Yeah, “But my husband …” “But my wife … my friend … my roommate.” It’s what follows right after the, “Yeah, I know I’m selfish. But.” That’s justified, self-centeredness. He goes on.
“Nothing is more natural, especially when we suffer from wounds caused by unjust treatment from another, than to regard our immediate well-being as the final purpose justice should serve.”
I’ll let you take that in because it’s so true. When I am hurt by someone, when they say something that is unkind or unfair, it seems so right to mete out injustice for the injustice that they have given. It seems so natural. And brothers and sisters, until we see that the self-centeredness we tend toward is just as toxic, just as lethal as the harm we have experienced, if not more than, we will perpetually mete out injustice for the injustice we’ve experienced. Let me say that again. Until we see that the self-centeredness — and it comes in so many forms. It’s obvious when somebody lashes out, screams, yells, attacks. But often it comes in forms of self pity, manipulation. But when we see that self-centeredness as just as toxic, just as lethal, if not more, then the harm of whoever has done us wrong is, we will perpetuate injustice. We will keep passing it on.
The friend who is hurt has no problem cutting off the friend and feels very good about it because of what they’ve done. The wife who holds herself back from her husband feels perfectly justified because he is not loving me the way I deserve to be loved. And she’s right. And she’s wrong. The husband who humiliates or mistreats his wife in any way and feels perfectly justified because she doesn’t respect me the way she should. I am not, Dr. Crabb is not using this argument to keep women who are being abused in that place of perpetual abuse by their abuser. That’s not what we’re talking about here.
What we are talking about is believing that my sin is okay because her sin is not. And it is amazing how blind we can be to our own hearts when we are empowered by this feeling of unjust treatment. Now the only solution I know in this universe is Jesus. 1 Peter 2:21. We’ll look at this in more detail next fall.
“For to this you have been called …”
Do you want to know your calling? You say, what am I called to do? I don’t know what I’m called to. This is what your called to.
“For to this you have been called because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return;”
When he was treated unjustly. He didn’t give injustice back.
“When he suffered. He did not threaten,”
But became a doormat? No!
“…but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body, on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the shepherd and overseer of your souls.”
Brothers and sisters, this is our deepest need. We need this more than we need revenge. More than we need people to think well of us. More than we need the truth to be known. This is where the Book of Judges heads toward. A King who finally comes, who doesn’t perpetuate injustice. Some people say, well, the Book of judges is all about Israel needing a king. Yeah, well, they got a king. And you saw what happened. Read, Samuel and Kings and Chronicles. Yes, it points to a king, but it points beyond the king to the King, the only King who experienced more injustice than we could imagine yet gave his life for us.
Peter goes on to describe, talk to wives and then to husbands. And then he concludes, 1 Peter 3:8.
“Finally, all of you have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”
Jesus, apart from you, we will fight injustice with more injustice, either through our passivity, where we will underreact or our anger and our revenge where we will overreact. We will do it as a nation. We see our nation solving problems and creating more as quickly as they solve them. As a church, we can easily create more injustice through evasion or blame shifting. And as individuals, we tend to see our faults as understandable and the other person’s faults as inexcusable.
So we beg you to pour out grace on us so that we can see our own hearts more clearly. Jesus, we need you. We need you. You’re unlike any other leader. You didn’t look the other way. You didn’t pretend injustice does not occur. But you didn’t produce more injustice in your response. We need you. Please, Lord, reveal your heart to us.
For those who don’t know you, we pray that some right now would be crying out for forgiveness, Lord, and come to know you today. You allow us to experience forgiveness and yet still not looked the other way when the vulnerable are being taken advantage of. We can be free spiritually and still not allow those who take advantage of the kindness of your people to harm. Jesus, you are the Lion who is the Lamb. You bring things together that would normally not be together. So, we’re asking for your life to flow in and through us now. And we thank you in Jesus’ name. Amen.