Sermon text here.
This week’s song: My Soul Thirsts by the Loverlies
In the last episode we looked at Luke 13:1-5, where Jesus warns that death comes to all and that we must prepare our hearts, lest we be found unprepared before God. This last week, sadly, I feel that we have found such preaching even more appropriate. Yet even in that hope lingers. And it is on that word, hope, which this sermon is founded. Jesus is light for those who sit in darkness—He is hope for the hopeless. Hope, real hope, in He that will never fail, is the foundation of our faith, and it is the reason we love. It is the force that calls us to obedience of commands like “Love your enemy, do good to those who persecute you.” If I have no hope, I have no reason to care about my enemy; I have no compelling reason to do good to those that persecute me if, at the end of life, there is no hope beyond—or worse yet, there is much worse beyond.
But there is hope, and that hope is Jesus Christ. And I want to spend some time here holding him up before the people in this world that are angry, that are hurting, that are crying out for justice.
Injustice, abuse, and hatred: these are real things, real sins committed by people daily. It is foolish to deny their existence or their effect. It is further foolish to try to equivocate one evil against another. Injustice begetting injustice, as we saw just a day or so ago: a man, angered by what he saw as injustice being perpetrated against his brethren, took violence into his hands and murdered people who had nothing to do with the act, and now is finding himself the subject of perfect justice.
But that’s the thing I want to point to in Christ: for the hurting, for the angry, for the confused, those wanting to understand how it is we can live in the world when people can be helplessly killed whether civilian or police officer, I want to point to Christ and say: let your desire for justice rest in him. It is normal to feel angry about this; it is absolutely normal to desire to see wrongs righted. Even our entertainment reflects this: how many millions upon millions of dollars are being spent now to put to film images of individuals given great power in one way or another to avenge wrong, and protect the innocent?
But perfect justice, that rights all wrongs and does good to the innocent, is not going to be done by any of us. We will not establish that world on our own, for our desire for justice is tinged with selfishness, pride, and arrogance, with the sin that dwells in our very essence as humans. No, that perfect justice will be done by God, and for those who believe in Jesus, it has been done on their behalf, fully, and perfectly. If you are a person who is angry and wants to see justice, work for it here, but I call you to look to the cross and rest first in Jesus; then, you can work for justice while recognizing the fact that your hope does not lie in trying to perfect the world by yourself. That is a fool’s errand. No, your work to see justice done will be perfectly completed in Christ, and you can trust that not a single wrong will be unavenged by God.
Yet I also call you to look at yourself. If your desire for justice is done without reflection of your own sin, and of the fact that you too will find yourself the subject of divine justice for the infinite number of evils you have committed against other men and against God, then you will find nothing but further frustration in your efforts. Stop, turn, and look to the cross, the greatest injustice of all time, yet simultaneously the most perfect fulfillment of the most righteous justice that exists. When you have looked long enough, and seen your sin that has nailed Him there, when you have felt the weight of that guilt you hold before a holy God, and the lightness of freedom in knowing that you can stand before God not as a guilty sinner, but as a righteous and adopted son of God clothed in Jesus’ work, cleansed by His blood, then turn and look back to the work you have before you to see justice done in this world. Let the perspective of the Gospel inform your words, and your hands, and let good be done to those around you. Love well, rest well, work hard, and trust in Him to do all things perfectly.
If you are someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one in this time, or you are just hurting and you want to find a way to deal with it, to engage the emotions you are working through in a constructive way and just find peace in the midst of turmoil, then I recommend very strongly the book Grieving: Our Path Back to Peace by Dr. James White. You have probably heard me mention Dr. White here before and may know him from his more theological works like The God Who Justifies and The Forgotten Trinity. But this is an excellent book that even a person in the midst of deep sadness can find hope in. It is immensely practical, yet theologically solid as well, and it does not shy away from answering questions like “Why did God allow this to happen?” that often plague us during these times. If you are feeling the weight of sadness, whether it is because of the turmoil going on right now or because of your own personal loss, you should get this book and read it, and follow the passages he quotes into the Scriptures to find the peace of God that passes understanding.