We all want Justice until we're guilty.
All of us can find a way to rationalize our own sin by finding something worse. There is always someone worse or seemingly worse that I can compare to myself to help me feel better about my own wickedness. Sometimes I don't even bother to compare. As I view some of the more heinous perpetrations of evil, I manage to forget about my own sin entirely...for a while.
When I watch a movie about the Holocaust or about some terrible abuse of children it doesn't just make me sad; it makes me indignant. I get furious. Anger boils in my heart. My sense of justice takes over, and I want to see punishment.
Most people will tell you that I’m a pretty easy going guy. I don’t get upset about most things. I let a lot of things roll off my back. At times I probably don't have strong enough boundaries, but when I see wickedness at its worse I want to fight. I want to see evil judged.
Some would say that my thinking is vengeful, that the desire to see punishment is itself sin. Unchecked, my heart can certainly go to that dark place that desires vengeance rather than justice. However, in its proper context the desire to see evil punished is a reflection of the image of God in man. God is just. The presence of evil means a just God must at times be wrathful in judgement. I don't want God to pretend that child rape isn't a big deal. I don't want Him to overlook the unmitigated murder of whole families in Syria. God's wrath is directly tied to His justice and His strength, and that is a good thing.
I’ve sat with people who told me they were abused as children. They still live with the scars today. My soul aches. Someone has to answer for this. We just can’t let this kind of evil go unaddressed. Worse than rape or murder would be to pretend they weren’t that bad. It would be like telling the victims that their pain doesn’t matter. I don't want to look at the mother of an abused child and say that what her child suffered isn't that big of a deal. To be brutally honest, in those moments when I hear about the worst of evil it makes me glad there is a Hell. Of course, in these moments I am forgetting how evil I am.
The purpose of Good Friday is to remember the weight of sin and the sacrifice of Jesus.
Have you ever attended a Good Friday Service? It is a sobering affair. The pastor wears black. The band plays dark mournful songs about the suffering of Christ. Once, instead of giving a sermon, the pastor at my old church read a list of sins written on bricks. As he read the bricks, he tossed them into a rusty metal wheelbarrow. Each one made a hollow, metallic noise. Some of the sins were murders and abuse. Others related to bitterness and deceit. The severity of each sin was indistinguishable as all of them made the same heavy noise. My sin seems no lighter than the rapist's when I consider that fact that Jesus bore it on the cross in my place.
In that church, hearing all those sins listed together, I didn’t want God to ignore any of them, not even mine. They were all horrible. They all cost Jesus more than I can fathom. That same sense of justice that made me want punishment for ISIS, Hitler, rapists, and murderers made me call out for justice for my own sins. I am a wicked man. My sin weighed heavy on that cross. I deserved death.
At the end of the service, as everyone sat with the reality of their sin my pastor pushed the wheelbarrow across the stage and dumped the bricks at the foot of the cross. The weight of my sins and the worlds were placed on Christ. Justice was served but at the expense of God’s Son.
Feeling the weight of my sin has helped me to see the greatness of God’s grace. This God of justice is also the God of grace, and my sin has made that grace very costly. I stand before God the same as the murder, the same as the liar, the same as the worst of sinners. The ground is level at the foot of the cross, and we are all found wanting.
Every year I think about my sin and the great price Jesus paid to take on all the just wrath of God for me. God's justice demanded that His wrath be poured out, but His love for me demanded I be spared. God's justice and love come together in grace. He suffered in my place. He died to pay the debt for my sins.
Praise God for His justice and His grace. I am a wretched man who has seen someone go to death for me. Grace is good and I want it for the worst offenders just as it was given to me. When all of us who trust jesus walk into heaven together, we won't be concerned with which one of us is more or less deserving; we will all simply praise God for His abundant grace, something none of us deserve.
This is what Good Friday is for. Remember your sin. Remember Jesus' sacrifice. Praise God for His love and grace!
Jesus really is making all things new (Revelation 21:5).