RESPONSE TO JUSTICE

by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Chapter 4 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, Justice)


"He hath shewed thee, 0 man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" Micah 6:8

When the Bible answers the question, "What does the Lord require of thee?" the first thing mentioned is "to do justly." The most important thing in the Christian life is to be just. Justice is the balancing of the scale. It is punishing an individual equivalent to the crime that was committed. It is rewarding an individual equivalent to the deed performed.

Justice is more than the sentencing of a judge in a courtroom, a teacher in a classroom or a parent in a home. It is also the sentencing within our hearts toward others. A just person has justice in the heart.

This chapter will be built upon the foundation of the basic principles of justice discussed in the previous chapter:

(1) Only God has perfect justice;

(2) No two people will always agree on what is just;

(3) I must not require you to reconcile your justice with mine;

(4) I must decide if you are sincere;

(5) Because you are sincere, I must allow you to disagree; and

(6) I will not put you on trial every day.

"To do justly" means that we are only to punish when we know that a crime has been committed and when we punish according to the degree of the crime. If money is missing from your wallet or purse and you suspect that your child took it, it is not just to punish that child until you are positive that he took it. It is tragic that often we punish someone before we have all the facts. Suppose you punish the child and then later discover that your husband or wife borrowed it. You have treated the child unjustly because you made your judgment based on suspicion rather than on fact.

Doing justly means that you never punish somebody who should not be punished. That is the first thing the Lord requires of you. In whatever area you have been given to judge, you are first to make certain that you are just. The first responsibility of a Christian parent is to do justly. The first responsibility of a school teacher or principal is to do justly. The first responsibility of every person in a position of leadership is to do justly. Those under our leadership have a right to be treated justly.

It is wrong to jump to conclusions and administer punishment before we have examined all the facts. Suspicion is not a basis for punishment. Accusation is not a basis for punishment. Fact is the only basis for punishment. The greatest perversion taking place in America among Christians today is their perversion of justice. We hear preaching about what is required to be a good Christian; yet we virtually ignore what the Bible says. So, what does the Lord require of you?

1. "To do justly." That is God's top priority. Pastors, be just to your members. Teachers, be just to your students. Parents, be just to your children. Employers, be just to your employees. God requires it. Punish only when you know a crime has been committed.

2. "To love mercy." This is a big part of doing justly. Mercy is not believing something unless you know it is true. It means not jumping to conclusions and not punishing until you have all of the facts. It means giving an individual the benefit of the doubt if you do not know he is guilty.

At First Baptist Church we have a rule stating that deacons must not smoke cigarettes. Several years ago two of our deacons were accused of smoking. I met privately with each of the two men to ask them whether or not it was true. I still did not believe it because I did not yet have their side of the story.

One of the deacons admitted that he was having a difficult time quitting his smoking, and he resigned the deacon board. The other man denied ever having smoked a cigarette. I did not have enough proof to convict him, so I gladly accepted his word. That is mercy. I would rather show mercy and be wrong than to condemn someone without knowing that he is guilty. Tragically, most Christians are more interested in execution than in mercy; yet the Lord requires it of us to show mercy. We preach what we require and ignore what God requires.

3. "To walk humbly with thy God." Again, this is still an extension of the first requirement of doing justly. We are not to think of ourselves more highly than those we are investigating, nor are we to prejudge them in our minds. We are not to follow our assumptions and judge without facts.

Oftentimes we have evidence but no proof, so we go ahead and pronounce guilt without knowing the individual is guilty. I refuse to punish someone based on my opinion or anyone else's opinion. To do so is pride, because it is elevating your opinion to the level of the law. A person is innocent until proven guilty. We Christians are the worst in this matter of judging someone because we think he is guilty. Our intuition is not always right. Never are we to judge an individual until we know he is guilty.

There is a way we are to respond to justice. We need to understand this in order to be just. Romans 12:19 and 20, "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head." Those instructions tell us what we are to do when we feel that we have been treated unjustly.

"Avenge" and "vengeance" are words that deal with justice. They deal with the way we respond to justice when we think it is wrong. The word "avenge" means our response to authority when justice has been performed. It is our response to justice. It is not dealing with how people treat you, but rather your response to justice when it is extended.

For example, your child's school teacher disciplines your child, and you do not agree with his decision. You are not to respond improperly by trying to slap the hand of authority. That is God's responsibility, and we are to allow Him to respond. The word "vengeance" means "out of justice." We are not to respond improperly to the justice somebody else makes. Authority is to stick with authority and allow God to straighten out the mistakes and injustices.

When I was a boy and I received a spanking at school, I automatically received another one when I got home. My mother automatically accepted the judgment of my teacher. Today, parents attack the teacher's judgment. The Bible says that we are not to settle the account with others in authority when we think they have judged wrongly. We are not to be avengers of injustice. God will settle the account in His perfect judgment.

All of us are human. Not one of us knows perfect justice, so none of us will always execute perfect justice. We are going to make mistakes. Therefore, we are to allow others in positions of authority to execute justice as they see it without our interference. God ordains and chooses authority to make judgments, and we are to subject ourselves to their decisions without our efforts to avenge verdicts with which we disagree.

Vengeance is anarchy. It is every man deciding what he thinks is right and trying to enforce it outside of proper authority. I may think you are wrong, but since I could be wrong, I must leave the final verdict to God. He will balance the scales.

A parent came to me and told me that his son was kicked out of a children's choir, and he did not feel that it was right. He argued that I did not know all that happened; yet, neither did this parent. He had based his opinion on the story his son told him and not on all the facts. I trusted the judgment of the authority. That is what the Bible teaches us to do.

God has chosen people for positions of leadership. We are to allow them to be in charge without our interference and scrutiny. If they carry out something that is not just, God says that He will see to it that the scales are balanced and justice is done. If the teacher wrongly disciplines your child, God will intervene and bring about justice. That is His job, not yours. God has given us the authority to judge, but not the authority to judge other judges. The correction within justice is up to God.

This is why Christians should not take other Christians to court. I Corinthians 6:1, 2, "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?" I Corinthians 6:6-8, "But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren."

In these passages we are told that we ought to take care of our own problems without taking them to court. It is wrong for a Christian to take another Christian to court. God's Word says that we are to allow ourselves to be defrauded or cheated rather than take a Christian to court. You have no rights other than to obey God's Word and allow God to balance the scales of justice. It is NOT our responsibility to enforce justice, except in our designated areas.

A church is an intricate thing. Leadership overlaps and often places someone over you who, in another situation, is under you. For example, I am the authority over our Christian school teachers; yet my children were under their authority when they were in school. I did not judge the way those teachers judged my kids and then avenge my kids if a teacher was wrong in my opinion. Sometimes I did not like the way they handled my child; yet, I left it to God to avenge the injustice.

God will avenge all injustices. Vengeance is up to Him. All of us occasionally feel that we have been mistreated or that someone in our family has been mistreated. Once judgment has been executed by proper authority, we are not to try to correct the situation in the way we think it should have been done. That is anarchy, and it is disobedient to the Bible. That person is the authority in that situation and has the right to judge in the way he sees fit.

Vengeance is taking matters into your own hands and attempting to correct injustice. That is God's place, not ours. You judge the area that God has given to you and defend the right of others to judge their area as they see fit. This will solve many of our problems and help us to keep peace with others. Let God be the avenger!

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