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Monday: Be Just! — 35 Comments

  1. Often we hear the call for justice for a certain individual who has been seriously wronged. Is this really different from a call for revenge? If the aggrieved desire severe punishment and get their wish through another agent, such as the government, is it different in spirit from the injured party or their representative actually executing the penalty? Sometimes the hurt one (s) get very upset when the punishment is lighter than they expected.

    That among most the concern for justice is far less, if any at all, when they are the guilty party than when their enemy is the transgressor is instructive (Matthew 18:23-35). Perhaps the justice of Heaven is not personal, but universal and concerned with the preservation of Law and order for the good of all. If each should get justice the whole human race would be eliminated (Romans 6:23). We do well to call more for mercy (Matthew 12:7).

    Thankfully justice, which is universal, was satisfied by Christ’s sacrifice, so we do not have to pay an individual penalty. In relating to fellow mortals we might bear in mind that no sin, however grievous, is unpardonable (Mark 3:28). As affected personally we should be prepared to forgive every wrong even as we are forgiven (Matthew 6:15).

    Dealing with the sin, and by extension the sinner, based on the effect on the community and the corrupting effect on the transgressor may be necessary at various levels, but this should not be treated as personal vengeance. Vengeance belongs to God, the Law Giver and Framer of justice (Romans 12:19).

    Understanding that He would satisfy justice’s requirement and with salvation on His mind Jesus seemed only concerned that the woman caught in adultery “go and sin no more,” that her future actions would not have a corrupting effect on the community or herself (John 8:11).

    • Hugh youur point is well taken; however, when a murderer goes free and kills again, wouldn't it have been better for all if he had received the maximum penalty under the law? The expectation of justice is what keeps us safe.

      • Interesting point, Betty. But what about the murderer who DOESN'T kill again? Or have you forgotten David? Thank God for justice AND mercy.

        • Praise God for justice and mercy. I, too, am a recipient of grace.
          But if Ted Bundy would have convicted after killing victim number 1, there would not have been victim number 36.

          • WE can never know whether we are forgiving 'David' or 'Ted' . We only know that we are told to forgive and to "judge not..."

      • Betty, you have a good point. It seems to me that you are referring to human justice systems and Hugh is mostly pointing to the divine justice. Sometimes they work together and sometimes not. The first, being human, may fail. We need to pray for our leaders, judges included. But God's justice will not fail.

        One of my favorite passages focuses on God's legal system (which human courts only partially reflect). I love the last part, putting justice and mercy in a different light than I'd seen elsewhere.

        "Christ came to give to the world an example of what perfect humanity might be when united with divinity. He presented to the world a new phase of greatness in His exhibition of mercy, compassion, and love. He gave to men a new interpretation of God. As head of humanity, He taught men lessons in the science of divine government, whereby He revealed the righteousness of the reconciliation of mercy and justice. The reconciliation of mercy and justice did not involve any compromise with sin, or ignore any claim of justice; but by giving to each divine attribute its ordained place, mercy could be exercised in the punishment of sinful, impenitent man without destroying its clemency or forfeiting its compassionate character, and justice could be exercised in forgiving the repenting transgressor without violating its integrity." - Selected Messages, Vol 1, page 260, E.G.White.

  2. Prov 17:
    13Whoso rewardeth evil for good, evil shall not depart from his house.
    15He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.

    It is pointless or of no gain, esp for eternity, to be unjust or unfair (even in a dispute involving yourself). The bible says repaying evil for good leaves us evil. Justifying and condemning inappropriately, makes us an abomination.

    What's the use? To gain a little temporary favour in this world (with guilt) and lose eternity? Mark 8:36-37

    Easier said...? I can do all things thru Christ who strengthens me. Phil 4:13

  3. We need wisdom to speak the truth in love. Often times we are skewed to either end; loving and covering sin or judging and condemning harshly. May God help us.

  4. As a christian, do not go on committing open sin simply because someone else is to cover you up or pardon you.

  5. In John 8:1–11, it records that when the Scribes and Pharisees HEARD Jesus, they went away. Where do we get the idea from that they READ what Jesus wrote on the pavement? And how do we know WHAT Jesus wrote?

    • Ministry of Healing suggests the following, "The accusers were defeated. Now, their robes of pretended holiness torn from them, they stood, guilty and condemned, in the presence of infinite purity. Trembling lest the hidden iniquity of their lives should be laid open to the multitude, with bowed heads and downcast eyes they stole away, leaving their victim with the pitying Saviour." (89) What would you infer from that?

    • Ah, yes Ray, a good question. I looked at that passage and asked myself what did they hear? The text says, "Then those who heard it" (Jn. 8:9 NKJV). Could "it" refer to what He just told them, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first" (Jn. 8:7 NKJV). But then why would that cause them to leave?

      Maybe what He was writing on the ground was a list of the sins they committed. I don't even think He had to name who did what, just the idea that He was aware of what they did and the implied threat of exposure would have been enough to cause them to disengage. What do you think?

      • Tyler, I think they were threatened by the challenge of Jesus and that was enough to cause them to leave. But so many sermons I have heard on this subject, both from SDA non-SDA preachers and they all confidently say that Jesus wrote their sins on the ground. We may "infer" or "guess" but we should say that were guessing.

    • I think this is a good question and I've wondered the same.

      The NET Bible uses the following translation note:
      "Or possibly “Jesus bent down and wrote an accusation on the ground with his finger.” The Greek verb καταγράφω (katagraphō) may indicate only the action of writing on the ground by Jesus, but in the overall context (Jesus’ response to the accusation against the woman) it can also be interpreted as implying that what Jesus wrote was a counteraccusation against the accusers (although there is no clue as to the actual content of what he wrote, some scribes added “the sins of each one of them” either here or at the end of v. 8."

      The Asbury Bible Commentary agrees that "We have no way of knowing what He wrote on the ground."

      The NET Bible also states that "The accusers themselves subtly misrepresented the law. The Mosaic law stated that in the case of adultery, both the man and woman must be put to death (Lev 20:10, Deut 22:22), but they mentioned only such women."

      So Christ didn't have to write the individual life stories on the ground, all He really needed to remind them of was the complete Mosaic law dealing w/this situation and they'd be convicted of their partiality and could not justly accuse only the woman.

    • I forgave my rapist and "left him to God". He went on to rape again after me and still is free. I tend to agree with Betty Nugent.

    • Brother Ray, you have a sharp eye for noticing the heard/read difference! Jesus, at first, stoops to write, directly and immediately after being challenged by the Pharisees. We could assume they are watching His every move, as well as listening. Then, Jesus stands and addresses them, verbally. Yet, again, after finishing His simple statement, he stoops to write once more. We are not told what He wrote, either time; however, He would not have done something at that precise moment, unless it would affect a conviction of hearts. He might have written Scripture concerning men's activities with women, of which perhaps they were not innocent, either. We assume He wrote their sins, which is just another possibility. I think the important point is that Jesus thought their accusations and attitude so important, that He dealt with them both in writing and in oral answer. They could not ignore both - they would either hear His words or, if they closed their ears, they could not help noticing He was writing something. One way or the other, they would have to take note of His answer to them.

    • Hi Ray,

      The answer is in the Spirit of Prophecy. See the quote below:

      "Jesus looked for a moment upon the scene,—the trembling victim in her shame, the hard-faced dignitaries, devoid of even human pity. His spirit of stainless purity shrank from the spectacle. Well He knew for what purpose this case had been brought to Him. He read the heart, and knew the character and life history of everyone in His presence. These would-be guardians of justice had themselves led their victim into sin, that they might lay a snare for Jesus. Giving no sign that He had heard their question, He stooped, and fixing His eyes upon the ground, began to write in the dust.{DA 461.1}
      Impatient at His delay and apparent indifference, the accusers drew nearer, urging the matter upon His attention. But as their eyes, following those of Jesus, fell upon the pavement at His feet, their countenances changed. There, traced before them, were the guilty secrets of their own lives. The people, looking on, saw the sudden change of expression, and pressed forward to discover what it was that they were regarding with such astonishment and shame.{DA 461.2}
      With all their professions of reverence for the law, these rabbis, in bringing the charge against the woman, were disregarding its provisions. It was the husband’s duty to take action against her, and the guilty parties were to be punished equally. The action of the accusers was wholly unauthorized. Jesus, however, met them on their own ground. The law specified that in punishment by stoning, the witnesses in the case should be the first to cast a stone. Now rising, and fixing His eyes upon the plotting elders, Jesus said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” And stooping down, He continued writing on the ground.{DA 461.3}
      He had not set aside the law given through Moses, nor infringed upon the authority of Rome. The accusers had been defeated. Now, their robe of pretended holiness torn from them, they stood, guilty and condemned, in the presence of Infinite Purity. They trembled lest the hidden iniquity of their lives should be laid open to the multitude; and one by one, with bowed heads and downcast eyes, they stole away, leaving their victim with the pitying Saviour.{DA 461.4}
      Jesus arose, and looking at the woman said, “Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”{DA 461.5}
      The woman had stood before Jesus, cowering with fear. His words, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone,” had come to her as a death sentence. She dared not lift her eyes to the Saviour’s face, but silently awaited her doom. In astonishment she saw her accusers depart speechless and confounded; then those words of hope fell upon her ear, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” Her heart was melted, and she cast herself at the feet of Jesus, sobbing out her grateful love, and with bitter tears confessing her sins.{DA 462.1}
      This was to her the beginning of a new life, a life of purity and peace, devoted to the service of God. In the uplifting of this fallen soul, Jesus performed a greater miracle than in healing the most grievous physical disease; He cured the spiritual malady which is unto death everlasting. This penitent woman became one of His most steadfast followers. With self-sacrificing love and devotion she repaid His forgiving mercy.{DA 462.2}
      In His act of pardoning this woman and encouraging her to live a better life, the character of Jesus shines forth in the beauty of perfect righteousness. While He does not palliate sin, nor lessen the sense of guilt, He seeks not to condemn, but to save. The world had for this erring woman only contempt and scorn; but Jesus speaks words of comfort and hope. The Sinless One pities the weakness of the sinner, and reaches to her a helping hand. While the hypocritical Pharisees denounce, Jesus bids her, “Go, and sin no more.”{DA 462.3}"

  6. I see in this story Jesus dealing with two things and both of them He seems to have handled redemptively. First was the Pharisees who were using that poor woman to get at Jesus in a the way that was totally unfair but even with that I think Jesus was making an effort to get them to see themselves as sinners in need of a savior. The second was the woman who didn't need condemnation; she already knew she was wrong. What she needed was mercy and compassion and encouragement to do what was right and to stop the sin.

  7. Forgiveness. Forgiveness covers a multitude of sins in a manner that will promote healing and allow the grace of God to cultivate the heart. I would much rather place a situation in God's hand, because I do not trust my own interpretation or motives. God can see the whole picture and provide the best solution. I choose God as my judge and avenger.

  8. Thanks to all for their challenging, inspiring, comforting posts.

    I believe the Bible speaks to how society should deal with issues and how we should deal with interpersonal issues.
    If we look at the laws given through Moses we see issues brought to the council of elders for impartial judgement to keep order and safety for the people. Which included cities of refuge in cases of highly emotional issues.
    But we also see the Jesus telling us to forgive 70x7, we see Paul telling us don't seek revenge, for God said vengeance is mine.

    To me this balances things out, if someone has done something bad to me he should have to face the consequence of his actions under the fair civil law, but I can forgive him, because God knows his heart and will judge accordingly. God offers us a miracle - he forgives us and gives us a forgiving heart, he tells us if we don't forgive those that hurt us, then He, God, can't/won't forgive us for our sins.

  9. How should a church board deal with people who fall short of the mark?

    We can learn from Jesus, as discussed we see how Jesus dealt with the repentant(?), seduced(?), sorrowful(?), woman, at the very least Jesus read her heart and knew with empathetic, kind, loving treatment she could be converted, re-created.

    Then we come to the Jewish leaders, Jesus didn't expose them in this case, he discussed, debated, did miracles, he basically went to great lengths to try to draw them to himself, to get them to accept Him for their own good because He loved them.
    But when all that had failed in Matt 23 he openly pointed out to them and to the people their failings, giving them a last chance to be converted and more importantly to stop them from continuing to lead the people astray.

    What I have discovered is that God's ways and thoughts are far above any human ways and thoughts. I must be careful not to try and reduce His infinite wisdom to one answer fits all. I will continue throughout eternity (God willing) studying to understand how the LORD is both just and merciful.

    • Shirley, church discipline is always a difficult thing. To me the short answer is that whether a person stays in the church or not is basically their decision to make. Our problem is trying to see that decision and that is where a lot of wisdom and sweat comes in. Jesus never openly criticized Judas and yet there came a time when He had to let him go just as He had to with the majority of the Pharisees. You save what you can but you don't let a fox run wild in the chicken coup - there are limits just as there was with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) and the young man in Corinth (1 Cor 5).

      To me what Ellen White said is an excellent rule to follow when making tough decisions in difficult situations, "You would better err, if you err at all, on the side of mercy and forbearance than that of intolerance" (Testimonies, Volume 4, p 65).

    • I like the question that you asked: how should a church board deal with people who have fallen short of the mark?
      I wonder why we still practice putting people who are baptized and have sinned ( fornication, getting pregnant) to sit in the back benches of the church. It is something that I strongly disagree with. Should we not forgive them and allow them to feel the love of Christ? Their sin is no greater than the sins we all commit from time to time (lying, gossiping, not helping the man begging on the street) and yet we relegate them to a punishment that will only serve to segregate them and make them feel unloved and unpardonable.

      • Hi Keisha, you mention making fallen members sit in the back benches, this is the first time I have heard of such a punishment. I have heard of such members not being allowed to hold public office for a period of time but not told where to sit.

        I know it is difficult but the Word does council us to discipline members who are openly sinning, but the purpose must always be redemptive and done with understanding and love.

        The church board should operate like loving parents who want the best for their children, guide, train, love, protect and sometimes this take tough love.

  10. We can forgive them of the crime, however at the same time, we also can hold them accountable for their action. Which helps them to learn and also helps the community to be a safer place.

    • Yes, indeed! Forgiveness implies that the offense needs to be recognized for what it is - in this case, a horrific evil. In other words, it is necessary to place the blame where it belongs. And if at all possible, the crime should be reported to the appropriate civil authorities. After that, the person wronged can forgive, because forgiveness liberates the person who has been wronged.

      And, yes, the criminal offender needs to be held accountable for his own sake and the sake of the community. This means that a crime needs to be reported to the appropriate authorities.

      In this case, it may still be possible to report the crime, especially if you know of other victims who will back you up and join you in reporting the crimes against their persons. Often it is easier to do later than immediately after the rape because of the emotional devastation caused by such a crime.

      May the Lord grant you wisdom in this matter.

  11. This is in regards to the question by Shirley what the action of the church is on erring church members. We have a church manual that gives guidance on disciplining church members. It is in Chapter 7 page 56 of the 18th edition revised 2010. It states the two forms of discipline--by vote of censure and a vote of removing from membership. Discipline does not mean that we do not love the member.


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