One of the greatest roadblocks that face people confronted with the Gospel is if God is good why does He let bad things happen to good people? Of course, usually the person asking this question is thinking of a particular someone who they believe is good and didn’t deserve the bad things that befell them. Attempting to comfort them with the fact that the rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous usually doesn’t work. They want to understand why their particular loved one had to suffer.
An attempt to answer this particular question has been made previously and I won’t attempt to do so here again. However, a conversation that I had recently brought this question up again. Having tried to address the broader question, the conversationalist made it more specific; “if Jesus says we are to love our enemies, why did God command Israelites to go to war with their’s? Isn’t this a contradiction in God’s character?” I faltered and my response was less than adequate, however I promised I would consider the question further. I knew one thing though – it wasn’t a question of God’s character, it was a question of my understanding. God’s character is consistent, my understanding of it, not so much.
Having done what I promised, this is what I believe. Rebellion to God is rooted in pride. Pride considers oneself greater than others and so when we are wronged, we attempt to correct the injustice done against us. When we love our enemies, we are acknowledging that any sin committed against me is really sin against God and it is therefore His to avenge. When Jesus (and God) commands us to love our enemies His reminding us that we too were His enemies and it is only through His sacrificial love that we were able to have a relationship with Him and a place in heaven. Therefore, who are we to met out personal justice to others?
However, there are times that God uses us and bestows leadership upon others – in the form of government, church leaders, and other authority – to be instruments of His work and distributors of His justice. The Israelites weren’t commanded to go to war in order to avenge the justice done against them; they were told to fight so that God’s justice could be manifest. This is a rightly established process that God has established to get a society functioning. He places people in positions of authority to do His work. As followers of Him, we’re to follow rightly and godly authority that He has established.
It hopefully goes without saying that a thousand clarifications could be added to this brief synopsis. We are not required to follow the acts of a despot just because they have hijacked a position of authority. Evil men are instruments of their own desires, not God’s. But just because a godly system has been corrupted, doesn’t mean that the principle, when rightly established doesn’t stand.
The ironic part of all this is that we are more likely to fight against the injustice done to us personally than to correct the offense against God which permeates our world. The disparity lies in our character, not God’s.