The older I get the more deeply I feel the frustrations of life. The years of conflict, disagreements, and meaningless debates and quarrels are catching up with me; weighing me down. It stays with me now. I don’t bounce back as easily as I used to. I think I used to believe that agreement could be reached, if only I could make a strong enough argument. But the many years of futility, irrationality, red herrings, and delusion have diminished that idea.
When I was younger, I didn’t quite understand the word strife. I encountered it often in biblical lists of vices. I got it in some sense, but it always seemed a bit sterile, adding little to the weight of the vices. But now that I’m older, and have more battle scars, I’ve grown intimate with the word. It’s a great biblical word describing that clenching we feel at the futility of the conflicts that we are nonetheless drawn to. It describes the resentment that remains, which pulls us into the next conflict again and again, robbing us of our dignity and humanity. We feel it, but we can’t not engage.
The lingering strife began a desperate need that I couldn’t quite put my finger on at first. I didn’t understand what I wanted, but the futility of the conflicts I was having, and that the nation was having, kept me searching for more; for better. Surely it began with my wanting to be right, but I believe it matured into wanting clarity even if I were wrong, though I believed I was right.
Then I thought I hit on a spiritual truth. What we need is a righteous judge. Someone to decide for us. One who could read motives and hearts, settle our disputes to everyone’s satisfaction. One who could tell us who’s right and who’s wrong or even that we are both wrong. But one who could render a righteous judgment that would be recognized by all as righteous and bring unity. One who could free us from the grip of strife.
But after reveling in the idea, it dawned on me that if we had a righteous judge, I may be found guilty and rightly receive a penalty that would cost me more than I could pay. At first the idea made me thank God that one day Jesus would judge the living and the dead. I liked the idea that we would not be able to argue with the judge. I thought this was maturity at work in me. It was creating in me a longing for the Kingdom. But then, I thought about the secret sins He would know; the unrighteous motives He would uncover. Was a righteous judge really what I wanted?
Romans 3:25–26 (NAS): This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
It is in that very natural second thought that the multicolored wisdom and grace of God is made known. If Jesus brings righteous judgement, if He ends our quarrels, brings truth and justice, and proves you right, then He must also bring condemnation and punishment of the guilty, and that will include you too.
But God has demonstrated a righteousness beyond all we could have ever imaged; in a wisdom we could never attain. He has, in Jesus Christ, become both just and the justifier. He will come and settle our disputes, finally bring truth and justice, and yet pardon those who have faith in Jesus.
One of the great divisions of our world is the divide between Conservative and Liberal. It exists partly because we have proven incapable of both truth and grace. But God in Christ has found away. The way was to bring an unflinching commitment to truth and justice, and then pay with His own life for those He himself found guilty, that we in return would find justice and still go free.
Romans 11:33 (NAS): 33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!