Is it wrong to pray for justice?
We know that God has promised to comfort His people and to deal out vengeance when Christ comes (2 Thessalonians 1:6-8; Revelation 21:4). We know He “will bring every act to judgement” at that point (Ecclesiastes 12:14; 1 Timothy 5:24, 25). We serve the God who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay” (Romans 12:19). This is part of our eschatological hope, our hope of what will happen at the end of time.
Yet we wonder—what about today? What about the lies my opponents are spreading about me? What about the struggle I am going through? Does God care about that? Absolutely He does, and we see part of the answer in Psalm 119. In Verse 81, the Psalmist was struggling and crying out for God. He said, “My soul languishes for Your salvation,” “My eyes fail with longing for Your word,” and “I have become like a wineskin in the smoke” (vv. 81-83). This was an intense longing for God to act, and for God to act in a specific way. Notice what he says—
“How many are the days of Your servant? When will You execute judgement on those who persecute me? The arrogant have dug pits for me, men who are not in accord with Your law. All Your commandments are faithful; they have persecuted me with a lie; help me.” (vv. 84-86)
Let’s dig into some specifics of this desperate plea. When we ask God to bring justice, we often are really asking Him to vindicate us and punish our enemies. However, the Psalmist continually binds his plea for justice in God’s compassion, faithfulness, and “lovingkindness” (vv. 82, 86, 88). He has also framed this request in a plea for God’s “salvation,” which applies to far more people than just the Psalmist (81). In other words, the Psalmist’s plea for justice is a plea for God to prevail.
It is not wrong to ask God to bring justice for a particular situation. After all, even the souls of martyrs in heaven cry out for God to bring justice for their “blood” (Revelation 6:9-11). Interestingly, they were not rebuked for this plea. The cry was not for vindication of themselves. They root their plea in God’s character and attributes by describing Him as “Lord, holy and true” (v. 10). They acknowledged that He was indeed in control. They affirmed that He was perfectly holy. And they reminded the Lord that He was absolutely true. It was in light of these characteristics and attributes that they cried out for justice.
So what do these examples teach us? It is not wrong to cry out for justice; it is wrong to seek it for selfish motives. Our purpose in the plea must be for the Lord’s glory and for His character to be displayed. We can seek that in the moment, but ultimately, we recognize that God will bring true justice in His timing. When we pray for justice with this in view, we are not letting people get away with wrong, even if we don’t see justice in our lifetime. The point is not whether we seem to be vindicated or not. God sees all and He will prevail. Our responsibility is to seek Him and walk faithfully with Him now (Psalm 119:83, 87, 88).
This is one example of how our eschatological hope of God’s justice impacts our struggles here on earth. We don’t ignore problems—we take them to the Lord with the right heart condition. We are rooting and shaping our desire for justice in a desire for God to prevail. Does that include being vindicated if we are lied about or treated wrongly? Yes, for God will deal with evil and honor His faithful children. But That is part of God displaying His character and fulfilling His promises. The point is that we are letting God accomplish that work in His timing. If we don’t see justice (in our eyes) in the moment, it does not mean God has forgotten or that justice will never come. Rather, we remember that justice is not primarily about us. It is about the Lord and the display of His glory, character, and rule over all.