“For your might is the source of justice; your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all…And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind; and you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.”
I have always struggled with the principle that “might makes right,” but there is an inescapable truth to it. Our ability to enforce justice is limited by the prowess of the enforcer. This is why our law enforcement professionals are armed; this is why we learn to defend ourselves. This does not, however, give us license to use our strength for our own purposes. We can justly defend truth, but as soon as we begin to use our strength to exploit or wreak vengeance upon others, we have necessarily forsaken justice. We look to God’s example to teach us how to use our strength to enact His justice.
God is the strongest of all, yet He judges with mercy. The Book of Wisdom affirms that God has taught us by example that the strong must also be kind. God has had mercy on us, despite our sinfulness. God would be justified in destroying the world because of our sins, and yet He does not destroy, but rather redeems. God forgives us and asks us to forgive each other. For this reason, we seek forgiveness not vengeance. We do not “cancel” or ostracize people because of their sins, but we do encourage them to repentance and welcome them back when they do repent. We love even our enemies and we seek reconciliation with them, difficult and painful as this may be, because we love them and want to share everlasting life with them in heaven. If God is gracious enough to send His Son to die in our place, can we not extend the same mercy to those who have sinned against us?
What truly motivates us? Is it the thirst for vengeance for past injuries or a loving hope that makes us desire unity with our brothers and sisters in the future? Do we seek to increase the division, pain, and distrust that characterize this sinful world, or do we work to mend divisions, reconcile sinners, and heal the wounds of the past? One of these paths lifts us up, the other drives us down. Though more difficult, the path of charity has a far more worthy goal.
We must be strong enough to defend the truth and gentle enough to reach out in charity even to those who hate us. The Body of Christ, the Church, remains on this earth to sanctify it and make it holy—to save souls and to bring God’s grace to as many as will receive it. May the Holy Spirit invigorate us and help us to be the leaven that raises our society.