[Government] is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.
God has established three administrators of justice in society so you don’t have to do it yourself.
The first administrator of justice is the government. The courts are God’s way of establishing justice in our society. That’s why in Romans 13:1 Paul said, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” God is the One who established the judicial system, and the government is “a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil” (v. 4).
A second administrator of justice is the church. Let’s say a fellow church member cheats you out of $25,000. What are you supposed to do? Well, on a personal level, you can forgive him. But the person who cheated you may cheat other church members as well. And he may be hurting the reputation of Christ not only in the church but in the community. You need to let a church official know. Why? Because the church may have to deal with this other church member. In Matthew 18:15-20 Jesus outlines how the church should deal with a Christian who is involved in the kind of sin that divides the body of Christ or harms the reputation of Christ.
A third administrator of justice in the world is God Himself. Sometimes God eliminates the middleman. He sends illness. He sends financial reversal. Sometimes He sends death on those who practice evil. I think of the story of Korah in Numbers 16. Korah led a rebellion against God’s man, Moses. How did God deal with it? He simply opened up the earth, and it swallowed Korah and all his followers (vv. 31-33). God settled the score Himself.
Now, I realize I am writing to two groups. Some of you are struggling with granting forgiveness. Remember, when you forgive somebody you do not give up your desire for justice. Your forgiveness does not erase the consequences that your offender may face in the future. But others of you are seeking forgiveness from God or others. If you are granted forgiveness, that doesn’t automatically erase the consequences of your actions. God often allows you to experience consequences to maintain order in society, to be a deterrent to others, and to encourage you to stay close to God.
If you are struggling to truly forgive, I encourage you to give up your desire for vengeance. Let God settle the score. If you are seeking forgiveness from God or from others and you are wondering, “Why am I still experiencing the pain of my sin if I have been forgiven?”–remember, those consequences, as painful as they are, are a sign of God’s love for you. He is using those consequences to keep you close to the Father who loves you.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Why Forgiven People Must Still Sit in the Electric Chair” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.