With superheroes as big as they are right now, nearly everyone can relate to the vast difference between the styles of the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, Matt Murdock… protector of the city and rescuer of those who find themselves in dire places… and The Punisher, Frank Castle, vigilante killer and dealer of swift and merciless judgment on whomever he sees fit. Although both get the job done; removing dangerous people from the streets of New York, they each have their own unique method of justice.
While I am, of course, careful of comparing our Lord and Savior to any mere mortal (super as they might be) it begs the question; what does God’s justice look like? I’ve heard it said that to God justice looks like this:
A man and woman meet in a courtroom to seek a divorce. The reason? Unfaithfulness. God’s justice causes those two to leave the room madly in love; reconciliation.
To the world, justice would be that the unfaithful one get what they deserve, punishment. God sees things differently. Through the lens of love, God sees that no one is too far gone for redemption. Someone asked me just this week,
“How could God send such an amazing person to hell just because they have one sin in their life? And is it even sin?”
The first question to answer is the second one. Does the Bible say it is sin? Whatever it is, we ask what the Bible says. If the answer is yes, then the wages of sin is death.
But, as the question was posed, it painted God as some violent enactor of punishment. As if He couldn’t wait for you to screw up in order that you might receive your just reward. God isn’t standing at the gates of hell chucking people inside. If anything, God is standing at the gates of hell, sobbing as we enter in of our own volition.
God is a rescuer, not a punisher. When we change our view of God, we begin to see the grand picture. God has gone to great lengths to rescue us out of our fiery fate. When man chose sin and death, God made a way. He always makes a way, even when there seems to be no way. (Is 43:19). Having sent His son Jesus to die a terrible death for your sin and mine, God drew a line in the sand. He said, “Stand on this side and see your salvation. Continue on that side and choose for yourself the rewards of your sin.”
I think about the movie The Princess Bride. It may be one of my all time favorite films. Remember when Westley was climbing the side of the cliffs of insanity? The man in black is following closely to the giant and company, when suddenly the rope is cut out from above. Gripping the cliff’s jagged footholds, Westley still manages to make it a good way free climbing. Inigo says he is getting bored of waiting and throws a rope down to help Westley climb faster. At that moment, the man in black had a choice. Do I grab hold of this rope that will save me time and possibly my life? Or do I ignore it and likely plummet to my death.
If Westley chose to not take hold of the rope and ended up splattered on the shores of the sea, what role would Inigo have played? Rescuer or Punisher? Clearly, his desire was to give Westley a way out. God is always throwing ropes, none of which were as vital and needed as the rope of Jesus Christ. When we find ourselves in sin, God is standing there with a goal in mind: rescue them.
He even gave instruction in the word how a brother or sister in Christ should respond when they find someone who is trapped in sin:
Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
Just as it is Christ’s heart to RESTORE, it should also be our own. Restoration, Reconciliation and Love are the goals God has given us.
God is a Rescuer, not a Punisher.