Ingrained in all of us is a desire for justice. We have this desire, because of our Creator. In Genesis 1, we learn that God has made mankind in His image. However, in Genesis 3, we see the fall of mankind into sin that changed everything. Because of our sin nature, we often times desire fairness rather than justice. However, let us get wronged or someone we care about get hurt, and we quickly call for justice. Many in the world call it karma, or express our desire for wrongs to be righted with the statement, “what goes around comes around.” We are tempted to believe that this is something new, but of course it isn’t.
In Acts 28, Luke is recording the voyage of Paul to Rome. To say that it has been an interesting journey and somewhat disastrous is a small understatement. However, we see this belief in karma stated in Acts 28. The ship that Paul was on has run aground, and the ship is destroyed. The prisoners on the ship with Paul, are able to make it to land. The people on the island of Malta show Paul and the others great kindness. Luke records that one way they showed them kindness was that they built a fire on the seashore for them, because they were wet and cold. The heat from the fire, drew a snake out. Clearly it was a poisonous snake because the people of Malta thought Paul was going to be dead. They expressed it this way, “no doubt this man is a murderer. Though he escaped from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.” I love what Luke records next. He says they waited for him to swell up and die. Luke says they waited a long time for that in fact, but no harm came to Paul. Of course, then the people of Malta took their belief 180 degrees and decided that Paul must be a god.
When they saw the viper bite Paul, they were convinced that he had done something wrong, and now justice was coming to him. We are a lot like them aren’t we? Whether we express it or not, we often have a mindset that we get what we deserve, what goes around comes around, etc. Unfortunately, many in the church are not immune to thinking this way as well. Sadly, this line of thinking causes many to attend church or give to the church, not out of love and gratefulness for their salvation, but rather out of fear of God taking His revenge on us somehow. There are three lessons we can learn from Acts 28 as well as a quick survey of Scripture.
The first lesson is this, the controlling force is the world is not karma; rather it is the sovereignty of God. To say that God is sovereign is to say that God is in control of all things, at all times. In recent years, there have been many assaults launched at God, the Bible, and Christians professing a firm conviction about the sovereignty of God. While, we don’t have time to deal with them here, I would be more than happy to discuss them with you. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. God had ordained that Paul would go to Rome, and nothing was going to change God’s will for Paul, or for you and I. Paul could have been set free, in fact, Roman leaders were willing to have done so had Paul not appealed his case to Caesar (Acts 25, 27, 28). Paul had been shipwrecked (Acts 28). Paul was bitten by a poisonous snake, and there were no anti-venoms in those days (Acts 28). However, none of those things were able to thwart God’s plan for Paul’s life. What a blessing and an encouragement to know that nothing we will face in life, can alter God’s plan for our lives!
The second lesson is that one day justice will prevail. Let us be careful in crying out for justice, we will talk about why shortly. One of the hardest things for many to understand about this life is why certain things happen. Why do young people get cancer and die? Why do those who hurt women and children seem to get free passes from our penal system? Why this, or why that? We ask that question, again, because ingrained in us from the moment of our conception, is a basic understanding of the need for justice. And when we see something that is unjust or that doesn’t seem right, we cry out for justice to be done. May we all learn to be like Abraham as he talked with God about the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18, when Abraham said, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?” The world we live in right now isn’t perfect, sin has marred it and continues to mar it by the choices we make daily. Maybe you have been the victim of a great injustice in life. I know this won’t take away the pain and the hurt you have experienced, but I hope this will encourage you; one day, in God’s time and in God’s way, He will right every wrong. He will bring true justice. Which leads us to the third lesson.
In the cross, we see both grace and justice. While we cry out for justice to be done, let us be careful in doing so. If God was to deliver justice immediately, every time it was called for, we would all be in grave danger. God is holy, that is He is morally pure and perfect in all ways. As such, God cannot stand sin, as it violates His holiness. If God was to deliver His justice to us, none of us would be able to stand. In fact, we would all be delivered to an eternal place of torment known in Scripture as the lake of fire. In Isaiah 64:6, the prophet says, “Our righteousness is but filthy rags.” In light of our blatant rebellion against God, even the good things we do, aren’t really that good. What we see in God sending His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross is the justice of God. In His holiness, sin demanded punishment and payment. In His death, Jesus delivered both of those on our behalf. Which means, not only did God do what is just at the cross, but He also extended grace to you, me, and all of the world. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For He made Him to be sin, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” The prince of preachers, Charles Spurgeon, called this verse “the great exchange.” At the cross, Jesus exchanged His holy perfection for mankind’s sinfulness, and in turn gave sinful men, His holy perfection. At the cross, Jesus took our sin and in salvation offers us His right standing with God. Oh, may we never get tired of singing and praising God for His grace that saves a wretch like me!