Monday, January 16, 2023

The LORD is an Avenger (Black Holes Included)

Suggested Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12

One of the places where the 2009 Star Trek movie diverged from the original Star Trek Television series was in the role of the planet Vulcan. In the 2009 movie, the villain, Nero, traveled back in time and destroyed Vulcan, murdering billions of people in the process. At the climax of the movie, Captain Kirk and his Vulcan first officer, Spock, have Nero's ship trapped at the edge of a black hole. Kirk contacts Nero and offers to render assistance but the villain is so consumed by his hate of Vulcans that he refuses. When Nero refuses his help, Kirk opens fire. When Kirk explains his offer of assistance to Spock, assuming that Spock would appreciate the non-violent gesture, Spock's understated, "Not in this circumstance, Captain," reminds the audience that Nero was an unrepentant genocidal murderer. In this particular instance, Spock did not want non-violence. Spock wanted the murder of billions of his fellow Vulcans avenged. The audience understood that, in this case, mercy was far too good for the genocidal Nero. The blood of all his victims cried out for justice.

We often think of God being represented through Jesus as a God of undying love and inexhaustible mercy, and we are right in that regard. But God cares as much about the victims as God cares about being merciful to the victimizer.  1 Thessalonians 4:6 reads, "This means one must not transgress against and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger of all these offenses, as we also previously told and warned you" (HCSB). 2 Thessalonians 1:6-8 tells us, "It is righteous for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you...taking vengeance with flaming fire on those who don’t know God and on those who don’t obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus" (HCSB).  We often focus on God's forgiveness for the sinner because we view ourselves as the transgressors and want mercy extended to us. But what if we are the victim like Spock? Suddenly justice sounds a lot better than mercy, right?

God is a God of both justice and mercy. Yes, God extends forgiveness to the repentant. But, caring for the victim, God extends justice to those who reject his mercy through unrepentance . God does not extend his justice because God is callous to the sinner's cries but because God is sensitive to the cries of the victim. God avenges the suffering of his people when the guilty party refuses to repent. This should comfort us because we know that God will bring us justice if those who cause us pain do not change their ways. But it should also give us pause when we refuse to acknowledge and rectify the hurt we have caused others. How will God mete out justice to us if we refuse to change our ways?

Yes, the Lord is merciful and loving, but the LORD is also an Avenger.

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