Peace can be as illusive personally as it is globally. And yet, peace is something everyone desires deep down inside. So why is it that when we turn on our televisions or listen to the news, we always hear people crying out for justice? The pursuit of justice can torment a soul in such a way that peace is never attained. What one person deems as “right” might be wrong to another. Our own perceptions are flawed when it comes to determining the motives of other people towards us. I can remember a time when I was deeply hurt by another person who was supposed to love me. In my heart I wished them to suffer as they had caused me to suffer and yet, years later, I found out that there was a deeper reason that they did what they did. In their eyes, the hurt they caused me was an act of love from their perspective. How many years of wasted bitterness could I have avoided if I had only sought peace instead of justice. Left in the hands of human beings, justice is a difficult concept to grasp. After all, one person’s justice can be another person’s injustice.
But God gives us grace in that He is the keeper of justice. When we take matters into our own hands, we can become corrupted by impure motives. In this life, we will be offended and hurt and suffer from the bad choices of others, but we don’t have to be haunted by injustice as long as we trust the grace and mercy of God. In Psalm 119, our psalmist identifies with this predicament. He states in verses 121-122: “I have done what is just and right; do not leave me to my oppressors. Give your servant a pledge of good; let not the insolent oppress me.” You can hear his frustration with this state of oppression that he is in. Have you been there? Perhaps it is someone you work with who continually undermines your authority, questions every decision you make or even goes to great lengths to make you look bad. The grace that God gives us in pursuing justice is in knowing that we have done right based on His Word. The balancing of right and wrong is best left in His omniscient hands, not in the hands of humans with the propensity to be blinded by selfish emotions. Without God’s Word, we can have no peace in knowing that our motives are just and right. Proverbs 16:2 reminds us: “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD.” When we pursue godly motives instead of personal justice, we are granted peace by the grace of God. When we trust in the promises of God’s Word, we no longer have to worry about what happens to the other person. In Proverbs 16:7, God promises this: “When a man’s ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” So, we lay down our own agendas, our own ideas of punishment for that person who has caused us distress and we wait for God to fulfill His promise in His timing. We turn our eyes off of our hurts and agree with our psalmist when he says: “My eyes long for your salvation and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise.” (verse 123)
Perhaps the issue of injustice haunts you because of someone closer to you than a coworker. Families can be filled with all sorts of different personalities and perspectives. Sometimes people we think are supposed to act a certain way toward us, act entirely different. Feeling unloved by someone who was supposed to love you can make you question who you really are. Pursuing justice in family matters can be tricky. We can be left wondering if we were a good enough daughter or son, mother or father, wife or husband, friend, sister or brother etc. But when we leave justice to God, we find grace in that He gives us our identity. In His grace, we find that we are His, -sons/daughters of the King, His treasured bride, His sibling, His friend. Though others may have hurt or failed us, we can find peace in knowing God’s love instead of continually trying to please others or administer justice by hurting them as much as they hurt us. Verses 124-125 of Psalm 119 show us that our psalmist recognizes his position in God’s Kingdom far outweighs his family position: “Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your statutes. I am your servant; give me understanding, that I may know your testimonies!” Only God can give us understanding when it comes to the confusing issues of relationships. When we seek God instead of justice, we can trust in His truth and His definition that “… for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
We do not have to be haunted by pursuing justice. We can rejoice in the grace of God because He gives us His Word to recognize the right and wrong motives of our hearts. When we trust God instead of taking matters into our own hands, He has the power to make our hearts pure, the power to extend the same measure of forgiveness which has been extended to us by Him. Isaiah 1:18 gives us the peace of knowing: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” God extends His grace by taking justice upon Himself, saying in Hebrews 10:30: “For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay.’ And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” He gives us our identity in Him so that even though we are not perfect, we are perfectly accepted by Christ when we surrender our hearts to Him –the One who will take up our cause.
God never asks us to be a doormat, but He does ask us to trust Him. We may have to fight battles, but we don’t ever have to fight them alone. So how do we find peace in a world that teaches us to seek personal justice? We continually set our eyes on Jesus. We look to His Word and trust in His truth. Our Savior told us in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” We have peace when we take heart instead of take revenge; we have peace when we give our heart to Jesus and leave justice up to Him.