Christians and vigilante justice

Pain, suffering and injustice are sad facts in this sinful world. Sometimes, it may be so profound that we don’t think we’ll ever overcome it. Yet, the Lord has a way.

According to the Free Dictionary, vigilante justice is when “a person who is not a member of law enforcement pursues and punishes persons suspected of lawbreaking.”

Situations and circumstances change, but God and his Word never vary (Hebrews 13:8; Psalm 119:89; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Regardless of our rationalization or passion, God still demands that we follow his will (Ephesians 4:26).

We must channel our emotions and remember that God is more powerful than anything (Psalm 139:7-12; Jeremiah 10:12).

Under the Law of Moses, God established the avenger or go-el principle where specific people in certain situations could get vengeance for a crime against their family (Numbers 35). Yet, that was limited.

God said, …life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Exodus 21:23-25, NKJV).

Jesus said that we must turn the cheek and go the second mile in the new covenant (Matthew 5:38-42). Murder begins in the heart, so we must work on our inner man in order to control ourselves (Matthew 5:21-26).

Christians should elevate Christ in their hearts so his mission becomes supreme. Heaven carries more weight than what happens to us in this life. People will hurt us no matter what we do (Romans 12:18).

In fact, reason over emotion is the key factor. In Exodus 22:2-3, we find a perfect example.

If someone breaks into a home at night, the homeowner could protect himself and his family. If he should kill the intruder, he wouldn’t be found guilty. However, if it were in the day, the homeowner would be guilty.

In the dark, the owner doesn’t know the intruder’s purpose or identity. Yet, in the light he can see and the resultant reason and knowledge means everything.

Vigilante justice takes the law into its own hands and plans and organizes an attack. God forbids such behavior today. We must maintain our composure and see the bigger picture.

Christians suffered shocking levels of persecution from the Jews and Romans. The author of Romans himself made havoc of the church and spilled the blood of countless brethren (Acts 8:1; 9:1-2).

Rome was a horrible place. Seneca called it a “cesspool of iniquity,” and Juvenal said it was a “filthy sewer.” Tacitus said that Rome was “where all thing hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular.”

Jewish assassins led terrorist attacks against the Romans and that led to the Jewish revolt and contributed to the massacre in AD 70. Tensions were electric in the days of the early church. Yet, God still denounced vigilante justice.

God has reserved that right (Romans 12:17-19). Just as the martyrs begged God for immediate justice in Revelation, we demand action now. Yet, God will handle it in his own way. No one will escape God’s hand.

On this earth, vengeance falls not upon ourselves but on government (Romans 13:1-5). We’re Christians first and nothing gives us the right to destroy our gospel mission no matter how someone has hurt us or our loved ones.

Let’s focus instead on our mission as Christians. Remember, heaven is still to come and there, all pain will cease (Revelation 21:4).

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