Grace in Justice

graceGod does not twist justice; the Almighty does not make wrong what is right. (Job 8:3)

Ponder It.

  • When have you taken God’s justice into your own hands?
  • When have you experienced “unfair” justice?
  • How have you personally experienced God’s justice?

Receive It. Just as God wants us to love what he loves, he also wants us to hate what he hates. Let’s be clear. God doesn’t hate people. They are his creation, and he has a purpose for each person, whether he or she fulfills it or not. He doesn’t want to lose a single person from eternal life with him, but he gives us choice, and our eternal lives are impact by those choices. God hates sin. He hates anything that comes between us and him. “Right” is that which is of God and is within his will. “Wrong” is what is against God’s will. Because we are made in his image and intended to become more like him every moment as we pursue him through faith, we’re to love what he loves and hate what he hates, which means we need to be familiar with both.

We don’t carry the responsibility of God’s justice. That’s his role. There’s a difference between being the judge and jury and being a discerning believer who isn’t gullible enough to accept falsehoods or too proud to acknowledge or assume truth. As we become familiar with God’s will and he stirs the passions within us, he will let us know when we need to respond appropriately to something that angers him. We don’t have to fix everything. We don’t need to convict someone. But we also don’t need to stand beside the road and ignore what God hates. The key is discernment, trusting God’s timing in every response of thought, words and actions.

Live It. Consider how God’s justice has helped you grow. Thank him for being just and ask him to help you reflect his justice in every response you have today.

No Fair

logo_retinaWhen I tell the righteous person that he will surely live, but he trusts in his righteousness and commits iniquity, then none of his righteousness will be remembered, and he will die because of the iniquity he has committed. So when I tell the wicked person, “You will surely die,” but he repents of his sin and does what is just and right— he returns collateral, makes restitution for what he has stolen, and walks in the statutes of life without practicing iniquity—he will certainly live; he will not die. None of the sins he committed will be held against him. He has done what is just and right; he will certainly live. But your people say, “The Lord’s way isn’t fair,” even though it is their own way that isn’t fair. (Ezekiel 33:13-17)

We cannot rest on our accomplishments or convict someone on their faults. Our good deeds and faith don’t carry us through if we abandon them, just as our offenses don’t condemn us if we turn and leave them behind. God wants ongoing, respectful relationship. But we want to be able to determine just what we can and can’t do. We want some control. We want to declare what is fair and what isn’t. And when we begin to understand that following Him isn’t about fairness, we can throw our hands up and declare God is wrong to do things His way, and people are wrong to follow and trust Him, and we’re better off without Him.

No fair!

But God is beyond fair. His standards aren’t like the ones we create, where everything fits into boxes that can’t ebb and flow beyond the boundaries that comfort us the most. We like to declare, “Foul! Wrong! Good! Bad! Right!” But who are we trying to convince?

Maybe we need to be quiet long enough to let God do a little convincing of His own.

That One Woman

finger-pointingYou know “that one woman.” She’s the one who seems to create the most problems and consume the most time in your life. She might be in your small group, on your ministry team, or in your church family. She seems to approach you at the most inopportune time.

“That one woman” might have a variety of names:

Whiney Whitney has a complaint about everything. She doesn’t usually want to be part of a solution; she just wants to voice her (negative) opinions to whoever will listen.
Answers Annie knows just about everything about everything. She sounds as if she wants to take charge, but she doesn’t want the responsibility.
Gossip Guilda talks about anything that shouldn’t be openly discussed. She betrays confidence, speculates to fill in gaps of unknown information, and generates concern where none is needed.
Bully Betty is mean-spirited. Sometimes her mistreatment of others is obvious, but other times it’s a quick, thoughtless word of judgment or eye roll and disgusted sigh.
Crisis Cathy needs you nearly 24/7. She’s in chronic desperate need. You want to meet her needs, but you’re beginning to wonder if you’re in an unhealthy codependent relationship.
Selfish Sally wants everything to be convenient to her schedule, priorities, and preferences. She won’t say “go ahead without me.” She needs to be included in every plan.
Doubting Debby is never quite sure about anything. She is certain someone will get her feelings hurt or end up in trouble. She wants to be sure everything is done “properly” but isn’t sure what that means.

Let’s face it: life would be much easier without people!

But, that’s not a possibility. We have to find a way to deal with difficult people and situations.

Be flexible. You might need to lower your expectations of “that one woman.” You can want the best for and from her, but if she’s consistent in her behavior – whether you like the behavior of not – you shouldn’t be surprised when she behaves exactly the way she usually behaves.

Be fair. You need to honestly consider how much of your time is spent dealing with, discussing, and thinking about “that one woman.” If you subtract the percentage of time you spend on her, how much time remains for all the other women around you? Are you cheating others of your commitment and relationship?

Be firm. Trust God through mentoring or confrontation – whatever approach He guides you through. “That one woman’s” response to you might not change until your response to her changes. Don’t assume you know the best way to handle the situation. God knows the details better than you.

Be fine-tuned. Personality conflicts aren’t just about “that one woman.” She might get along well everyone else, and you just don’t get it. Someone else’s “that one woman” is likely different than yours. We clash with others for a variety of reasons. God created you in His image, and He also created “that one woman.”

Be followed. Know that as much as you want to teach “that one woman” a lesson, God has a lesson for you, too. You are an example to others. People are watching when you least expect it.

Remember, you are likely “that one woman” to someone, too.

I Want What’s Fair

boundaryThe older son was in the field, and as he came closer to the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. So he called to one of the servants and asked what all this meant. The servant said, “Your brother has come back, and your father killed the fat calf, because your brother came home safely.” The older son was angry and would not go in to the feast. So his father went out and begged him to come in. But the older son said to his father, “I have served you like a slave for many years and have always obeyed your commands. But you never gave me even a young goat to have at a feast with my friends. But your other son, who wasted all your money on prostitutes, comes home, and you kill the fat calf for him!” The father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. We had to celebrate and be happy because your brother was dead, but now he is alive. He was lost, but now he is found.” (Luke 15:25-32)

His younger brother wanted his share of the inheritance. After his father gave it to him, he left home and squandered it, while the older son stayed home and fulfilled the expected role of a son. But when the younger brother came home, the father treated him with much love, celebrating his return. And the older brother wasn’t happy about it.

We can cry “no fair” when we feel we’ve done the right thing then see someone else being treated abundantly well, because we think everyone should get what they deserve. We think it’s tied into behavior and that we have a right in response to what we’ve done or haven’t done, but that’s not how inheritance works. We don’t earn it. It’s given because of the person giving it not because of ourselves.

God gives you an inheritance.

The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. (Psalm 16:6)

What happens when we try to live by our own boundaries and expectations instead of God’s?

  • We build ourselves a small space within the large space we’ve inherited and we never step on every inch intended for us.
  • We pay more attention to what we don’t have than what we do. We think the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
  • We become territorial, believing where we go and what we have is more about ourselves than about our responsibility to the one who gave us the inheritance.

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. (Job 1:21)

So what’s keeping you where you are, holding you back, or making you frantically run toward and for something else?

Don’t define your inheritance on your own. God gives it to you. He knows it best. And he’ll guide you every step throughout it and every moment you live within it. You need to simply ask, trust, and respond in obedience.