Justice: Divine and Civil

Rev. George F. Borghardt III

So, he's dead. Finally. We got him. We may or may not see the pictures everywhere. But, everyone who is anyone believes that he is dead. The 9-11 victims and their families have some closure – even if it's ten years later. Thank God.

Did you feel a twinge a guilt while you were celebrating? Maybe you started feeling not-so-hot about it. After all, isn’t it kinda awkward? We're rejoicing over someone’s death. Should we? Shouldn't we? What about forgiveness? What about mercy? Aren’t we Christians?

The two kingdoms doctrine! We learned about that in confirmation class. Pastor Cwirla explains it here quite nicely.

The left hand kingdom is the kingdom of temporal power. In this kingdom, you get what you pay for, the scales are balanced, and you get what you deserve. If you drive sixty miles an hour in a thirty mile an hour zone, the officer gives you a ticket. If you steal, you go to jail. If you murder, you could even be executed.

The government has been given the temporal sword. No grace – ALL law. God gives this sword to the government to maintain order in the world – to reign in manifest sin, to curb it, to catch criminals, to stop crime, and to keep us safe. They prevent crime and find and punish those that break the law. That's one of the gifts of the government.

OBL was the mastermind of not only the 9-11 attacks but also the first attempt on the World Trade Center, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and countless other terror attacks all over the world. He murdered and orchestrated the murders of countless men, women, and children. God gave us the government to catch men like OBL and bring them to justice.

But what about grace, mercy, and forgiveness? That’s the right hand kingdom! When the Lord deals with you by His grace – you don’t get what you deserve. You don’t suffer the punishment you have earned.

You are guilty of more than speeding, theft, and murder. If God were to judge you, if He were to deal with you, if He were to set His scales upon you, what would the punishment be for you? Nothing less than death and hell.

Instead, in the right hand kingdom, you are treated by God the way He treats His Son. His Son is holy, so you are holy. His Son is pure, so you are pure.

Why? Christ lived a holy life for you and died the death that you have earned. You died with Him in Holy Baptism. His resurrection is your standing before God – yesterday, today, and forever.

So... What does this mean? Time to distinguish between the kingdoms! In this world, you work and get paid. If you are a good citizen, the government pretty much leaves you be. If you aren’t, they don’t. You lead a world-wide terrorist organization, they find you and kill you. And that’s what you deserve. That’s the left-hand kingdom.

But when God deals with you in Christ, He deals with you by the holy life and bitter sufferings and death of His Son. Christ is your Savior. Christ is the grace of God. Christ is the mercy of God. Christ is the right hand kingdom.

And if you want to celebrate the Lord’s justice, then do so. The government did what it was established by God to do. If you don’t think celebration over anyone’s death is appropriate, then mourn quietly. It’s a sad world where such things have to happen.

You haven’t been condemned. No, you’ve been forgiven. You might consider cutting your neighbor some slack and grant him the benefit of the doubt. That means no judging the people who rallied at Ground Zero or outside the White House or on Facebook.

So no condemning anyone to hell, even the most evil person you can think of. No judging or rejoicing in anyone’s eternal damnation. After all, didn’t you just barely – as in, only by the blood of Jesus – escape the flames of hell yourself? Leave the condemnation of criminals and terrorists to the government. That’s what they are for and that’s what they are given to do.

Created: May 5th, 2011