It should be apparent to anyone even casually reading the news that the world is becoming more divisive. Some might argue the earth has always experienced conflict, which is probably accurate, and only proves that humanity continues to go through cycles of self-destructive behavior that ultimately leads to major national and international conflicts. Are we in that same place today? A new survey from the Pew Research Center reveals the political polarization in the United States has reached a dangerous extreme.[i]
One-hundred-fifty years earlier during the 1850s, America had become deeply polarized over geopolitical territories. The south was pro-slavery, while the north was mainly abolitionists. However, the division was much more profound. The nation was also divided over political ideologies, with a northern Republican party favoring a stronger union that could wield even greater power at the federal level, and a predominately southern Democratic party emphasizing the rights of individual states to self-govern, and create and enforce their laws.
Sadly, the American Civil War, in the end, was not fought around biblical or constitutional principles of emancipation. It was fought over economic and political power centers, primarily who would control the destiny of this young nation. The Civil War broke out in 1861 when the Confederate States of America (eleven southern states) seceded from the Union following the election of President Abraham Lincoln a year earlier. The vote was labeled an act of war by some southern politicians who believed the newly elected president would send Union troops into the south to retain military control over the Union.[ii]
The end of the Civil War brought about numerous Civil Rights bills from 1866 to 1875, eventually paving the way for the historic landmark bill of 1964, and the provisions to the Post Civil War Federal Rights Acts in 1983.[iii] Some might argue that slavery had not only ended in America, but the injustice brought about by enslaving twelve million Africans had been appropriately mitigated. Not so. The end of slavery only perpetuated the extreme level of poverty already inflicted upon our African American brothers and sisters, and the passing of these laws did not resolve the racial division in this nation between blacks and whites. Justice may have been served, but reconciliation did not happen.
By now you might think I am trying to give us a history lesson on the Civil War. On the contrary. I am attempting to illustrate that the Civil War and the polarization that preceded it represent man’s way of dealing with division, the outcome of which left a trail of death and destruction that nearly destroyed this country. I am not suggesting that conflict and even war are not necessary to resolve tyranny. However, as Christians, we need to be asking this question: How does God want us to deal with injustice in this world?
First, we need to understand that injustice is rooted in division. All division exists because mankind has allowed sin to separate God and man. Our separation from God has given root for the division to sprout and flourish within God’s creation. God is indivisible, and mankind, created in the image of God, was intended to walk in the Garden of Eden in perfect union with Him, with no division between God and man. Adam walked in perfect union with his wife, Eve, until the fall, and even co-existed in perfect harmony with all the animals—the whole of creation.
Therefore, the root of division, including racial division is attributed to man’s sinful nature, and further, the origin of injustice is also rooted in man’s sinful nature that causes division. We now live in a fallen world where God is concealed and separated from humanity. The result will always be further division leading to hostility and inevitable conflict. Can a man-made problem be resolved by a man-made solution? Absolutely no.
To confirm this point. God chose the nation of Israel and brought us out of slavery from Egypt. There, in the Sinai wilderness, God gave us His perfect law. If the Law of Moses could have created an ideal society where all twelve tribes of Israel lived in blissful harmony, the New Covenant and Christ’s propitiation on the cross would have never been required. The prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, NKJV).[iv] The Law of Moses could not fix the heart of man. Only God through the indwelling presence and transforming power of the Holy Spirit can redeem the soul of man.
Let us now look at several biblical passages that shed light on God’s viewpoint about justice:
- “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face” (Psalm 89:14). This verse reveals God’s standard of justice and righteousness, which are mercy and truth.
- “You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:15). And this verse delegates God’s standard of justice and righteousness for mankind to uphold. Like Christ, we are to be full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.[v]
From these two passages, we can conclude that God’s justice and righteousness work together as an indivisible unit to establish His Kingdom. Conversely, injustice would be defined as treating or judging someone unrighteously. Because man is sinful by nature, we are also unjust and unrighteous by nature. Therefore, how can a wicked person create or establish a righteous and just foundation for the Kingdom of God? We cannot. Slavery, racial segregation, socioeconomic division, anti-Semitism, misogyny are all forms of injustice caused by man’s sinful nature that leads to division.
When Christ died on the cross for our sins, He not only justified us before God, He also imputed His righteousness to us.[vi] Therefore, in Christ we are now seen by God as both just and righteous, however, only because God is just and righteous, and Christ now dwells within. So, we, the church, should have no excuse for further division within God’s household, this division causing injustice to God’s people. No, we should be unified and indivisible within each other as Christ is unified and indivisible within His Heavenly Father.
Yeshua said, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:20-23).
So, here is the answer to the question we have been asking: How does God want us to deal with injustice in this world? He wants us to reconcile it through the cross. The Apostle Paul said, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19). When we view injustice through the eyes of Yeshua, we understand the root of injustice is attributed to man’s sinful nature. And the solution to injustice is not more laws or more incarceration for breaking those laws. The answer to man’s sinful nature is Christ’s propitiation on the cross, and His indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to redeem and transform our wicked souls.
If God was reconciling the world—in other words, removing the division between God and man—by forgiving our trespasses, ought we also to reconcile the world to God by forgiving those who have trespassed against us? After all, it says that He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. It is now our ministry. Forgiveness does not condone injustice. On the contrary, our forgiveness reconciles unjust men to be reconciled to a just God who died on the cross for their transgressions. Reconciliation is God’s solution to a man-made problem.
When we forgive, we also open the door for repentance. Notice the order of God’s reconciliation with mankind. It is written, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God did not wait for man to repent first so that we might be reconciled to God. Christ died for us while we were still sinful and unrepentant, and He forgave our sins so that we might repent and be reconciled back to God. “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Therefore, we also must not wait for man to repent for us to administer God’s word of reconciliation. We are obligated to forgive first, with the anticipated hope that our fellow man will in turn repent and be reconciled back to God, and then to man.
In conclusion, reconciliation is the act of forgiveness that leads to repentance, and ultimately to the removal of the sinful nature of man that has caused division within God’s creation. There is no simple path. Reconciliation is a process that takes time. We must forgive one person at a time, give that person an opportunity to receive the forgiveness, and become healed by the Holy Spirit of any offense we have carried in our hearts.
Let me close by sharing with you a personal journey of forgiveness. Being Jewish, I am sure that most of you can appreciate the hatred I felt towards the Nazis because of the atrocities they committed during the Holocaust. I would argue from a traditional perspective; there would be no rational purpose to forgive any person who committed such atrocious crimes against God’s people.
In April 2006, the Lord gave me a dream where my wife and I were walking towards a small group of people. I looked at a short, stocky German woman and asked her where I could find a Jew. She rolled up her sleeve and pointed to a swastika on her arm, saying she was a Nazi. Rather than getting angry, I felt compassion and sympathy for the woman. I leaned over and kissed her twice on the forehead, saying, “I forgive you.”
This dream, I believe, demonstrates the Lord’s desire for reconciliation, even amongst the most hateful enemies. I pray that we, the church unites together with indivisible unity and that we show God’s mercy by forgiving all those who have trespassed against us, and that we might lead all men to repentance and into the Kingdom of God. Let us shine with the righteousness of Christ before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord—blameless—most significantly the commandment of God’s word to be ministers of His reconciliation.[vii]
[i] Strauss, Mark. It’s Been 150 Years Since the U.S. was This Politically Polarized. June 2014.
[ii] Confederate States of America. History.com.
[iii] Post Civil War Federal Civil Rights Acts, Civil Provisions. USLegal.com.
[iv] All Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Bible (NKJV) unless otherwise noted, Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982.
[v] Psalm 85:10.
[vi] Romans 5:9, 2 Corinthians 5:21.
[vii] Luke 1:6.