I am considering the justice vs. vengeance philosophy, (which may not be a philosophy at all, but another of my musings). As I confront the childhood sexual abuse (CSA) I experienced, I am finally addressing this important and sometimes controversial subject. I will state right up front that I believe vengeance should have no place in our hearts and motivation, but justice of preeminent importance.
Lets go to the Bible and look at both sides of this. First up are the scriptures I was directly quoted in conversations with a pastor:
- Romans 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
- Deuteronomy 32:35 To me belongeth vengeance and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.
These verses don’t mention justice (which is what I am seeking), but vengeance, two different things altogether. I think they were put forth to me because I haven’t forgiven. It is assumed that because of a lack of forgiveness on my part, I am actually not seeking justice, but something more visceral and violent. Vengeance would be more akin to desiring and carrying out bodily harm in retribution for ill-treatment. That is not my goal or aim.
Definition of Vengeance
Infliction of injury, harm, humiliation, or the like, on a person by another who has been harmed by that person; violent revenge:
But have you the right to vengeance?
An act or opportunity of inflicting such trouble:
to take one’s vengeance.
The desire for revenge:
A man full of vengeance.
What person, who has been terribly hurt by another hasn’t had at least a fleeting thought of vengeance? In all honesty we would have too say none-but with passage of time comes no solace if justice has been lax, and the criminal free from judgment. If we look at these following verses we see that men have been placed in authority for a reason and to do what is right. Can you see the defining characteristic in virtually EVERY one?
- Deuteronomy 33:21 And he provided the first part for himself, because there, in a portion of the lawgiver, was he seated; and he came with the heads of the people, he executed the justice of the Lord, and his judgments with Israel.
- 2 Samuel 8:15 And David reigned over all Israel; and David executed judgment and justice unto all his people.
- 1 Kings 10:9 Blessed be the Lord thy God, which delighted in thee, to set thee on the throne of Israel: because the Lord loved Israel for ever, therefore made he thee king, to do judgment and justice.
- Psalm 82:3 Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.
- Proverbs 21:3 To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.
- Isaiah 59:14 And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.
You will notice that each time justice is mentioned, there is a companion word included, judgment; they belong together. When speaking with someone recently I uttered a phrase which seems very appropriate, “Justice is (or should be) timeless.” The fact is, many have been mistreated and profoundly worse, and received no justice because there may not have been applicable laws or societal protections in place at the time. However, may I say that hiding behind elapsed time or antiquated, or non-existent law has no bearing on certain criminal behavior, plain and simply, justice must be done. (I have discovered that the law in my home state has no statute of limitations on first degree criminal sexual assault; it can be punishable by a prison term of 25 years and up.)
Definition of justice
a : The maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments
b : judge
c :The administration of law; especially : the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity
a : The quality of being just, impartial, or fair
b (1) : the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action (2) : conformity to this principle or ideal : righteousness
c : the quality of conforming to law
: Conformity to truth, fact, or reason : correctness
You wouldn’t think of excusing a murderer, but when a person sexually abuses a child, and it isn’t revealed until adulthood, it is considered an unpunishable crime? That it is somehow now Gods job to do whatever He decides is just? There are authorities placed in this world by God to govern, make and keep the laws, and protect it’s citizens and their rights.
Romans 13:1 New King James Version (NKJV)
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.
1 Peter 2:13-15 King James Version (KJV)
Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well, or so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:
I read an article recently about racism, it was written by Tim Wise. He has through research, relationship, education and experience become a voice for those who are discriminated against because of color. He wrote a very powerful article called-What Whites Don’t Know About Racism-you can find it here in its entirety.
I will use this excerpt:
“There’s an old saying that it’s hard to know what you don’t know, the premise being that when you’re ignorant about something, you aren’t likely to realize your blind spots. But I’m not so sure. Sometimes, knowing what you don’t know just requires a certain degree of humility. For instance, I don’t know calculus, because I never took it in school. But here’s the thing: I know that I don’t know calculus; and as such, I would never presume to know it, let alone to tell others for whom it had actually been their major that I knew it better than they did.” Tim Wise
My point is this, even if you have experienced CSA, there is a wide and varied outcome in the life of the individual, this is true even within my own family. The problem is that many people who have no idea what this trauma causes, will minimize and marginalize the victims of such a crime. They, due to a blindspot of their own, will put forth simplistic and insufficient cures that disregard the monumental destruction that has been caused. They will quote scripture, pat you on the head and pridefully walk away believing they did something “good.”
My experience has been church based and extensively documented here, that is my main perspective. However, there is a significant lack of effort being put into finding solutions, and providing help to protect the lives of people worldwide. Education, legislation, vigilance, and moral responsibility must be not only enacted, but fully accepted by all.
- We need to discern between the petty reprisals of the overly sensitive and the total decimation of a persons soul through sexual abuse.
- We are responsible to understand and educate ourselves in the art of empathy for those who suffer unspeakable terror while helpless at the hands of someone in cruel control.
- We must understand that the CSA victim has a life-sentence in dealing with their trauma.
- We need to understand that when someone reaches adulthood there isn’t a magic transformation that takes place and all is suddenly well.
- We need to rethink the status quo in the church of a scripture and a prayer, providing tangible and substantial resources to help those Christ has called us to rescue.
- We must be justice seekers, not to supplant the will of God but to be observers and executers of His will.
- We need to remember that most who suffer abuse as children don’t even begin processing the pain until they reach their 30s-50s.
- We need to consider the child and do what is best for them, not only our faith assemblies, when abuse is discovered.
- We should be the proponents of justice on behalf of the abused, those who cannot help themselves.
- Justice is an important part of healing.
Psalm 82:3 Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.
I welcome your comments.