There hardly seems to be a verse we need more of — or see less of — these days:
For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality (Colossians 3:25).
We’re crushed by our spouse, abused by our boss, abandoned by our friend, and no one pays the price. We see criminals go free, sin get a pass, horrors in the news remain unanswered.
Good people die off, and bad people won’t.
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? (Psalm 13:1-2)
This verse is the third in a list of reasons Paul gives to help us keep going as wife, husband, child, parent, servant — to keep working heartily as for the Lord and not for men (Colossians 3:23-25)— to be obedient and do the hard thing and find purpose in our work when it all doesn’t make sense:
- our true reward is God’s grace and not our work;
- the true recipient of our service is the Lord Christ, not our spouse or our boss or our circumstances; and now,
- the true God will deal with those who hurt us or take advantage of us in our obedience.
The wrongdoer will be paid back. As much as we count on future grace for eternity, we can also count on future justice. When we get God, we also get even: Vengeance is mine, says the Lord (Romans 12:19). He carries it in His hand as surely as He holds His love.
That’s because sin has a cost, and it will be paid, whether by us or by the blood of Christ shed for us (Romans 4:7-8, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10, Romans 6:20-23). The cross creates space for mercy and justice to co-exist, and no debt will be left outstanding when God balances His accounts and reconciles all things to Himself (Colossians 1:20).
In the end, we will never again mourn for wrongs to be made right.
But that is not the most amazing thing in this verse.
The most amazing thing is this: When the Apostle speaks of wrongdoers who will be paid back, we are not counted among them. Paul is not addressing us here, nor the Christ-followers in Colossae he writes for and weeps for from his prison cell.
To us, he has written these words instead:
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him (Colossians 1:21-22).
God made (us) alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands (Colossians 2:13-14).
Our accounts have been paid in full. And so, as the psalmist did just a few verses past How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?, we move beyond our need for revenge by focusing on His unimaginable, undeserved, and unlimited grace for us — wrongdoers, too:
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me (Psalm 13:5-6).
Justice — mercy — both belong to our God. We can take vengeance in our hands only if we take sin back on our heads.
We get even — as we get grace — through surrender.
And just like that (two-and-a-quarter years later!), we’re done with three whole chapters of Colossians. Only one shorter chapter to go — will you pray with me as I decide what book to write through next? Thanks for all your encouragement so far.
praying for your next project Kelly! Thank you for taking so much time to journey us through Colossians with you!
Thank you so much, Becky!
What a great entry today! Not that your others aren’t 🙂 – but we really really need to hear this. There are so many circumstances that tempt us to respond badly and/or with wrong thinking. You’ve hit the nail on the head, Kelly, putting your finger on just the right nerve and offering a sound and encouraging theology through which to filter our thinking. Thank you, friend!
Thanks, Margi. So much energy spilled out screaming for justice, so little spent intentionally exploring and living out of the expanse of our salvation and grace. Me included…