For a while the topic of divine justice bothered me, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I then found a sermon by George MacDonald that made it all so clear. It is a lengthy and slightly older version of English so I will do my best to summarize and share my own thoughts.
First, let’s talk about earthly justice. If someone wrongs you, what fixes the situation? Does that person need to repent, do penance, or something to fix the situation? Let’s use a specific example. If someone runs into my car (assuming that it was their fault) money will help pay for damages. An apology could possibly make me feel better. But I will still have to go through all the headache of insurance, getting my car fixed, taking more time away from whatever situation I was travelling to in my car. Basically, there’s nothing someone can do to erase the situation and restore it back to the way it was before.
If someone apologizes I could still refuse to accept it. I could hold on to bitterness. I could demand that they be punished in some way to sate my anger/wrath. Hopefully everyone understands that vengeance never satisfies by now. Likewise, Someone could refuse to apologize. They could even go as so far to say that they did nothing wrong. But I could still forgive them.
My point is is that the only thing that actually helps the situation is when I forgive the other person. I will suffer until I do. Forgiving is not dependent on anything external, but my own self. And isn’t that what Christianity asks of us? To forgive our neighbors and even our enemies who have wronged us and refuse to apologize or admit wrongdoing?
Let’s talk about jail/prison. How can they be helpful? Like we already said, vengeance does not satisfy or make the situation better. So prison is not helpful for that reason. However, it can be helpful in that it protects the general population from a dangerous individual. But what is most powerful, is the hope of redemption – that the prisoner will use this time and punishment to reconsider their life and come out a changed person so that they will make better choices in the future. Otherwise prison is merely a holding place, a measure of safety. If a prisoner is sentenced for life, there is no chance for redemption, save in a limited way by behavior within the prison walls.
Now let’s talk about Divine Justice. George MacDonald points out that God’s justice must be better than ours. Many times Christians will say that God’s ways are above our ways when they don’t understand something. I agree, but they must also be better than our ways. Now, there may be something I’m missing that somehow explains how God can allow hell and people to go to hell forever (or be burned up forever in hell), but as far as I can understand these views are not consistent with God’s ways being more loving than our own ways.
Compare the justice Christianity promotes for humans. Forgive others when they wrong you. Yet, when we wrong God there must be punishment. We either must appease God, or pay back the Devil by proxy. But somehow God splitting himself can come down and pay for our sins to satisfy himself by dying on the cross.
George MacDonald maintains that the only way to satisfy Justice is through mercy. God’s mercy is the only thing that can undue wrongdoing and bring about redemption. He, and I also believe, that there may be a time of purgatory for some individuals, but eventually everyone will return to the oneness of God.
I’ll make another post later about free will Vs. God’s will and why I believe his love overcome all. I’ll explain why everyone will choose God over their own way and a hell of their own making.
Hope that made sense. Let me know what you think, if you enjoyed it or see some flaw in the argument. Thanks!