Peace, Love, and God's Sovereignty

As a dad of two young children I have had the opportunity to see some of the deepest longings of the human heart reveal themselves in a shockingly depraved way. Maybe we wouldn’t all put it that way but most of us dads have experienced this. This is what it looks like in my family…

My four-year-old daughter is happily focused on coloring with her markers when my one-year-old decides that he also would like to color with markers. Rather than choosing a marker from the box he decides that he wants the marker in my daughter's hand. What ensues are ear-splitting shrieks declaring, “I am in the right and I have been wronged here!”

I suggest that my daughter’s strong sense of justice is a Godly attribute. God himself declared, “the soul that sins shall die” (Ezek. 18:20). Una would phrase it, “the soul who stole my marker shall return the marker or pay.” Why then would God’s command to Una be not to seek vengeance but to overcome evil with good and live peaceably with her brother? (c.f. Romans 12:18-21). More to the point, how can we as adults obey this command in Romans from the heart when we are slandered, burned in a business deal, or taken advantage of, or are made to look foolish in front of our peers? I believe part of the answer lies in Genesis 50:21 and Matthew 26:50.

In Genesis 37 and following Joseph is thrown into a pit by his brothers, sold into slavery, and wrongfully accused of sexual impropriety. You know the story. In Matthew 26 Jesus is betrayed by Judas, setting into motion the events leading up to his death. It is safe to say that both Joseph and Jesus had every right to demand justice on their behalf. The shocking thing is that they did not. Joseph says to his brothers who conspired against him, “‘ not fear. I will provide for you and your little ones.’ Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them” (Gen. 50:21). Similarly, Jesus, face to face with his betrayer said, “Friend, do what you came to do” (Matt. 26:50). How is this possible? I present to you that both Jesus and Joseph had a robust understanding of God’s sovereignty over human evil.

Joseph said, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for Good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen. 50:20). Jesus likewise knew that “it was the will of the Lord to crush him” (Is. 53:10) so that his people may have life.

In those moments when the proverbial marker is snatched from our hands, do we believe that God is powerful enough to use the culprit, the situation, and the injustice to bring about his good purposes? If we truly believe that even the most evil (or even just inconvenient) people are instruments in the hand of our sovereign creator, then what else can we do but love and pray for them?

This is true in overt persecution and heinous acts of evil. But it is also true in the little day to day things that can slowly embitter us and cause us to be unfruitful in the Christian life. I’m talking about the old fella on the road in front of us who is riding the brakes when we have somewhere important to be. Can God use that for our sanctification? Genesis 50 would have us remember it is not an accident! Or on the rare occasion when I am totally right and my wife is totally wrong. Can that serve as an opportunity to lay down my rights, serve my wife, and keep the peace in the house? Matthew 26:50 would have us know that even if she was as wrong as Judas, she is still my closest friend.

God is in control of the details of our lives. Do we act like it by loving our enemies, our brothers and sisters, and our spouses? 

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