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Israel, I won’t lose my temper and destroy you again. I am the Holy God—not merely some human, and I won’t stay angry. Hosea 11:9 (CEV)

The difference between punishment and discipline hinges on the desired outcome. When a wrong is done, the human response is revenge. Those who do wrong must pay. It’s Justice.

What is it that gives the parent freedom in the courtroom to forgive the drunk driver that killed her child? What is it that empowers the father to visit the man in prison that molested his daughter? How can a spouse forgive when he/she has been cheated on, abused or humiliated? How can you forgive a God who claims to be loving but allows famine, cancer and war to tear the lives of people apart?

The answer boils down to a single word: value. It’s a matter of mercy over justice. Man seeks justice because justice demands repayment for sin. Punishment is the motivation for justice, but punishment will never fully repay for actions done.

To the mother that forgives the drunk driver, all the pain, all the anger, all the hatred and all the prison time in the world will never bring her daughter home. There is no amount of time in prison that will heal the scars the molester leaves on the life of a young girl. There is nothing that will heal a broken heart.

Man’s punishment is never intended to improve the life of the perpetrator. On the other hand, God seeks to amend, to build up, to correct. His actions are intended to correct an error so that the guilty person can continue on the journey stronger, more confident and more useful.

That’s not to say we should never send anyone to prison, or that justice should never be served. The justice system, flawed as it may be, is designed to physically protect us from those who would harm us, but that system was never intended to deal with issues of the heart.

God’s dealing with us is a simple case of mercy over justice; of natural consequences over penalty; of value over revenge. The two may look the same in some cases but one destroys value the other is intended to build character. One is motivated by love, the other by anger; one frees us, the other enslaves us; one brings eternal life, one brings eternal separation from a holy and loving God.

Whether you are sitting behind physical bars of a prison or emotional bars made from the scars of a life gone wrong, know this. The God of the universe isn’t into punishment for the sake of punishment; his goal in allowing you to go through whatever you are going through is to build character in you. He values you far beyond anything else in the world.

PRAYER: Lord, even though you have freed me through Jesus there are still times I want to keep others in the prison of their souls. There are times I live entrapped by my own guilt and shame. Help me to see the value you have in me and pass that value on to others. Amen.


I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. John 13:15 (NLT)

“And Jesus had compassion…”

Those words spring up throughout the ministry of Jesus while he was on earth. He had compassion on the woman caught red-handed in bed with a man she wasn’t married to.

He had compassion on the parent whose child had just died or was very sick.

He had compassion on the rich young ruler who, tried as he might, just couldn’t do what was necessary to receive the gift of eternal life. He just couldn’t let go.

He had compassion on the traitor who sold out to the enemy and, as a result, was a social outcast.

He had compassion on the person so steeped in religion that he couldn’t comprehend the simple steps it took to receive eternal life.

He had compassion on those who were his closest friends and yet were more concerned about their own status than they were their brother.

He had compassion on the guard that beat him nearly to death and then pounded huge spikes into his already pain-filled flesh.

“He had compassion….”

Why did Jesus have compassion on so many people that rejected him, either openly, or unintentionally? What drove him so such lengths to give his very life for the very people who thought they took it from him?

Jesus had compassion because he knew the Father and knew that the Father was, in his very essence, compassion. That is what drove Jesus to reach out to the weak, the frail, the sick and the rebellious. And that’s what drives Jesus to reach out to you. Not a single deserved the touch of Jesus compassion. Not a single person can repay him for what he did. Neither can you.

Jesus says to us, “Follow my example”, and when he does so he is asking…commanding us rather, to show compassion in the same way that he did.

Our reaction to those around us is a reflection of our view of God. If we see a god of revenge we will seek justice rather than mercy. If we see a god of anger we will respond to those who have hurt us in anger. If we see an unforgiving god we will refuse to forgive those who have hurt us. But if we see a God of compassion, we will respond to those around us as Jesus did.

PRAYER: Father, once again I am humbled as I approach your throne today. I confess that it is easy to show compassion to those I don’t know, or those who are like me and who are kind to me. It’s hard to show compassion to the ‘bad people’ around me, yet that is what you would do. Fill me today with the power from your Spirit to show compassion to those who need it the most. Thank you for the example you gave us in Jesus. In his name I pray, Amen.

 


God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. Hebrews 6:10

There are perhaps few things in life more frustrating than when our work and good deeds go unappreciated. You work hard to get it ‘just right’. You tend to every detail and make sure all is in place for a successful day or event. For all your hard labors you get the ‘know-it-all’ who manages to see every flaw or, in Christian love of course, tells you how you can do it better ‘next time.’

In the meantime you walk away thinking, ‘There will NEVER be a next time. Why do I do this?”

Then there are the people that completely misinterpret your intentions. The see everything you do as an attempt to elevate yourself when you were really trying to be the servant Christ called each of us to be.

If you are someone who works to serve people, especially people in ministry, teachers or parents, you know the feeling. Like the little red hen you work hard and feel all alone and unappreciated in your labors. God’s word offers hope for you. The writer to the Hebrews reminds each of us that God is a just God. Don’t read Hebrews 6:10 so quickly as to miss the nugget of truth and encouragement: “He will not forget your work!”  Others will miss it, critique it, tear it apart or find ways to do it better. God remembers.

It may not be this week. It may not be next year. It may not even be until you are able to see Him face to face. But someday your labor will be rewarded. Don’t grow weary in the battle. When you do things for others and feel unappreciated try to remember that you are really doing those things for Jesus.

But there is a double edge to God’s sword of justice and it’s one of the painful, but real, parts of scripture. God’s justice works both ways. If you are living for him and obeying Him; if your relationship with Him is growing through prayer, Bible study and personal and corporate worship and you are being mistreated, his justice will be sure.

On the other hand, if you harbor unconfessed sin in your life. If you are refusing to forgive someone or are angry, bitter or resentful towards others, then God’s justice may work against you.

It’s important for us as, especially as Christ-followers, to remember that sees life and justice differently than we do. God’s view of justice has more to do with bringing us into right relationship with Him than it does making us feel comfortable and appreciated.

If we are harboring sin, doubt, worry, anger, bitterness or resentment in our hearts, He will do whatever He needs to do to bring us into right relationship and obedience to Him. He isn’t concerned about yesterday. If you have made a mistake yesterday (or in your past) ask for confess it to Him, ask for forgiveness and rely on His Holy Spirit to move on. Then, forget about the mistake.

The double-edged sword of God’s justice is this. No matter where you are in life, you will encounter those who hate you, mistreat you and misunderstand your motives. When that happens do a spiritual self-examination. If your heart is right with God remember He looks at your heart and knows your true motives. If you find some way in which you have transgressed, ask forgiveness and move on. Either way, God’s justice is fair, true and loving. Rely on Him for today.

PRAYER: Father God, I confess to you that many of the things I’m dealing with are a result of poor choices and my rebellion towards your ways. I ask you to show me where I’ve failed and then help me to grow in relationship with you. During those times when others wrongfully accuse or misunderstand me I pray for your strength and encouragement to move on. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

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