Climbing a Rope of Sand
This question, “Where is God’s justice?” is a frequent go-to question for the village atheist or the run-of-the-mill, God-ignoring neighbor. It is one version of asking about the problem of evil. It is also asked like this, “If God is so good and so powerful, why isn’t he dealing with all the evil in the world?”
There are plenty of ways to answer to this question, but there is one way which is the most shocking and surprising way I know of. That answer is this: Blindness to the justice of God IS the justice of God.
This is not intuitive and needs some explanation. The ultimate explanation is given in Romans 1:18-26, which begins this way:
Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteouness,
Notice carefully what this verse says. It says that justice is being done. It is being done right now. Wrath is presently being revealed against every person who suppresses the truth. The rest of the chapter displays this in three different ways. First, verse 21 says when people suppress the truth, they become futile in their speculations. Second, verse 24 says when they exchange truth for a lie, because of their truth suppression, God gives them over to impurity. Third, verse 28 says when they suppress the truth by disapproving any thought of God, God gives them over to a depraved mind, or a mind full of disapproved thinking that leads to all manner of destructive evil.
So what is happening here? When people turn to their own ways and suppress the truth of God’s authority, sovereignty, and ownership over all they think, say, and do, something happens to them. When a person suppresses the truth they will necessarily become futile, unclean, and full of evil. God has created this world so that trying to live in his world without him will never work. Therefore, justice is baked into the creation. When people turn away from God, futility, destruction, and death follow necessarily. This reality is inescapable, and suppressing this truth is like trying to climb out of a canyon on a rope of sand - it cannot be done. Therefore, you can see God’s judgment and wrath everywhere. All around us we see sin compounding and piling on itself with its resulting and increasing pain, which is the justice of God against people who suppressed the truth and did their own thing.
Now let me bring this back to the original question. When someone scornfully asks “Where is God’s justice?” they are actually demonstrating themselves as the target of God’s wrathful justice. More specifically from our passage, notice that when God gives a person over to a depraved mind in verse 28, one of the outworkings of the depraved mind is in verse 31, they are “without understanding.”
And there they are, standing before you without understanding, because God has judged their sin and left them to their darkness. They are the very evidence they are demanding to see. But they can’t see it because they are without understanding, and they won’t see it.
We must remind ourselves that this is not a problem we can fix. Why? Because, it is not a problem. Justice is being done. What we must do is seek God’s mercy for them. And if God gives mercy, in a sovereign gracious work upon that hard heart, God can divert this justice away from the sinner and onto the cross. God can save the sin-enslaved person so they can then see their sin and suppression, and turn to the glorious refuge of Christ. We are to point the sinner to the cross, and if God will show mercy, he can save such a person. He did it with us and he can do it with them. So speak the truth and pray for God to work.