Originally written for Shepherd of the Ridge Lutheran Church, apply these ideas to your local context.
Image via Wikipedia
Earlier this week, a man scammed several churches in Akron by sending fake utility bills to them. When reported on TV, the reporter commented that the churches must now choose between justice and forgiveness.
But that reporter didn’t understand that churches (and Christians in general) need not draw this distinction and can (and should) choose both.
We live in two kingdoms at the same time. God’s Kingdom of Power, also known as “The Kingdom of the Left,” includes lawful government. Government is called on to carry out justice for the benefit of its citizens. This means punishing criminals to deter crime and protect the law-abiding citizens. The government’s job is to see to it that people get what they legally deserve.
But the church is God’s Kingdom of Grace, or “Kingdom of the Left.” The church’s job is to forgive, to love, and to share God’s undeserved love. We support the lawful government and let it do its job, and at the same time, we love even those who seek to do us harm.
How does this play out in real life?
While the churches need to press charges, they also need, in whatever way they choose, to say, “We believe that you need to face justice and learn to avoid that sin in the future, but Jesus died for your sins, too.” If the man is jailed, members or the pastor should visit him in jail if allowed. They should invite him to attend their services or other events and go out of their way to get to know him and make him feel loved. Let him know that, yes, sin is serious business, but God forgives.
But this applies to our lives, too. Who has wronged you recently? Is this something that you’re in a position that you should correct it somehow? More importantly, how can you reach out to that person in love and forgiveness the way God has reached out in love and forgiveness to you through Jesus? We tend to care more about the justice end of the equation, but even justice, in our personal lives, must be loving. But thank God that He has not only modeled that love to us, but given it to us in forgiveness through His Son!