There are stories in scripture which seem to frame justice as vengeful and retaliatory. Some of the most awful acts are placed in the mind and hands of an angry God – people killed, crops devastated, cities destroyed. It becomes easy and simplistic to think that if that is the way God operates, then so should we. “An eye for an eye” as a model for human behavior therefore becomes, “I am going to hurt you in exactly the same measure as you hurt me (maybe even more).” It’s hard to know what justice truly is in the face of terrible tragedies that cause pain, grief, and anger to rise up in us. We feel stunned and helpless.
Even when over 100 of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters are murdered and wounded by an angry homophobe, we are called to have faith in God’s tremendous capacity for justice, which surpasses our own. That justice is at the heart of the gospel. And it is that faith which keeps us seeking and working for right relationship, and not revenge, in our fumbling and failing way. We are called to look deep within ourselves, our society and culture, to assess our true feelings and motivations. It is a great challenge to trust in holy justice when human systems fail – and they will. Is there any Good News? Yes. It is possible to turn anger, and a desire for revenge, into justice, by addressing the root of the wrong that was done, the political and cultural maladjustments, the deeply painful human affront we can all do something about, if we but have the spiritual courage and political will. May God bless the victims of tragedies born out of hatred, and may God bless and keep all of us from a spirit of revenge.