So here is a question that I came across recently on social media for all of us to ponder in the Paris aftermath: do we as a church pray for the transformation of ISIS and their like or for their eradication? It's a question not so easily answered, one I struggled with in Sunday's pastoral prayer.
On the one hand, yes, it is clear that sin needs to be punished, and God is a God of justice. The gospel doesn't say, "Don't worry about it. It's all OK." God has a righteous anger toward sin, as should we as God's people. Scripture makes it clear that the State is God's servant, and as "an agent of wrath" has the authority to bring punishment on the wrongdoer (Romans 13). Evil needs to be destroyed, and God's people are called to fight injustice.
But God is also a God of mercy and grace. We are called to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, and not repay anyone evil for evil. We are called to recognize God's image in each and every human, believing that ultimately no one is beyond redemption. So, in the end, it's not an "either/or" but a "both/and" issue. We pray that evil would be destroyed and lives would be changed. We pray for both justice and for salvation.
God presented Christ Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-he did it to demonstrate his justice in the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Prayer for Today
O God, we know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth at this present time. We groan too as we await our adoption as your children. As we groan, we pray for both the transformation and the eradication of evil in our midst. Amen.