Is It Right to Rejoice When Injustice Is Avenged?

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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The godly will rejoice when they see injustice avenged. They will wash their feet in the blood of the wicked.

Psalm 58:10

A few days ago, the United States military killed Osama bin Laden, a mass murderer who was plotting the death of innocent people throughout the world. For many, their immediate response to the death of bin Laden was rejoicing. Some took to the streets with placards celebrating the death of the arch-terrorist and victory for the U.S.A. This response unsettled many, including Christians in the United States and throughout the world. How can we rejoice, some asked, when Jesus forgave those who crucified him? Celebrants defended their actions by pointing to biblical verses such as Psalm 58:10: “The godly will rejoice when they see injustice avenged.”

In this short reflection, I don’t have the space to delve deeply into the questions raised by the death of bin Laden and the celebrations that ensued. So I will offer a couple of observations of a more personal nature. First, we must read Psalm 58 carefully and in context. The language of this psalm is foreign to us, but common in the ancient world. The theological point it conveys is that justice and injustice matter both to God and to godly people. In time, God’s justice will prevail and injustice will be avenged. This is God’s responsibility (Rom. 12:19). When divine justice wins and injustice is judged, we rightly rejoice.

But here’s where things get more complicated for Christians. We easily rejoice when we see the injustice of others condemned, but what about our own unrighteousness? My sin may not be as obviously terrible as the sins of others. I may not have planned the death of thousands of innocent people, but I have sinned and I fall under God’s righteous judgment. This is not a cause for rejoicing, but grieving. However, thanks be to God, my guilt is not the end of the story.

You see, the good news is that God has taken my sin upon himself in Christ. Christ has borne the judgment that I deserve. Thus, when I gaze upon the cross, I see injustice avenged, my injustice as well as that of the world. Should I rejoice over the death of Jesus? On the one hand, I am horrified by his suffering. Yet, on the other hand, I do rejoice in his love, grace, and mercy. But my rejoicing in not in the form of “Finally, the unjust one gets his due.” Rather, my rejoicing says, “Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, my God, didst die for me?”

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what ways do you think it is appropriate for us to rejoice when injustice is avenged? How does the cross of Christ impact your thoughts about this matter?


And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

“And Can It Be” by Charles Wesley (public domain)