Injustice in Light of the Just One
Journal Entry on Genesis 34
November 15, 2020
How do we respond in the face of injustice? I would say there is absolutely a right way and a wrong way, neither of which dimmish or increase the wickedness of the injustice. If we yell and scream and make a big fuss, it doesn’t make the injustice any more evil than if we remained silent. The act of injustice is, by definition, unjust. It is not right, it is not okay, regardless of how we respond to it. However, it should by no means go unnoticed. It should be dealt with; it should be judged. But by what standard are we judging? What exactly makes something unjust?
I want to consider a few definitions before moving on. First, what is injustice? Webster’s defines it as “violation of right or of the rights of another; wrong; unfairness; the absence of justice.” That then begs the question: What is justice? According to dictionary.com, it is “righteousness, moral rightness, lawfulness, the administering of deserved punishment or reward; the quality of being just.” Finally, what does it mean to be just? Again, dictionary.com, “guided by truth, reason, justice, and fairness; righteous; correct.”
How do we determine what is true or righteous, or correct? Again, there must be some sort of standard, because if none exists, then how can we determine if something is truly unjust? And who would judge accordingly? You see, justice exists because the Lord, who is completely just and sets the standard for justice, exists. He Himself is the standard for truth and His Word is our source of truth. Something isn’t unjust because I declare it to be so; it is unjust because it is in direct opposition to God or the truth displayed in His Word.
With that as our foundation, let’s return to the original question: How do we respond in the face of injustice? In Genesis 34 Jacob’s only daughter, Dinah, is raped by the local prince, Shechem. Was that an act of injustice? Was it wrong of Shechem to rape her? That’s a very easy question to answer when the Word of God is our standard of truth and the tool by which we determine what is right, correct, lawful, or just. However, how would the world answer that question? I’m sure they would say that it is wrong and shouldn’t be allowed to happen and therefore should be punished. But why do they think it is wrong?
The underlying belief system of the world, which is quickly becoming more prominent, is that truth is relative. Truth is whatever you believe it to be. This is especially true of American culture, where the cry of the people is to do what makes you happy. Furthermore, nobody has the right to take that happiness from you. However, if we pursue that same logic, who’s to say that rape is wrong? It obviously made Shechem happy: he got what he wanted, what he desired in that moment. So who’s to keep him from achieving happiness by prohibiting or punishing his actions and his choices. Obviously those questions don’t sit well with us because there is a standard. Good and evil do exist. Truth is absolute. Something within our spirit cries out: “that’s not right!” And we know it.
Rape is wrong because it goes against the character of God, the Word of God, and God’s intended design and purpose for sex. God is love and we are called to love as He does. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 tells us that love is patient (it waits for marriage to satisfy sexual desire). Love is kind (it does not take advantage of another or cause harm in any way, whether that be physical, emotional, or mental pain). It is not jealous, boastful, proud, or rude (it doesn’t assert it’s power over another or treat another with disrespect—it is not rough or harsh or forceful—it respects other’s requests, namely when a woman says “no”). It does not demand its own way (It doesn’t take a woman by force because of a need to satisfy one’s own sexual craving). There is no room for rape in the call to love one’s neighbor as oneself.
Furthermore, rape goes against the commands and design of God for sex. It was meant to be enjoyed in the safety and sanctity of marriage in a mutual, loving act displaying the physical reality of two becoming one flesh. Thus, rape is sin. It is an act of injustice because it is completely contrary to the Just One. It is not right because it is contrary to the One who is completely righteous. It is wrong because it is contrary to the truth laid out in the Word of God. So, when rape occurs, our spirits cry out for justice, and rightly so. It is a wicked and unthinkable act.
When Dinah’s brothers found out what had happened to their sister, they were outraged. Shechem had defiled their sister and disgraced their family. Were they right to be furious? Absolutely! God hates sin. Sin kills, destroys, and deceives. It causes great pain, ruin, and turmoil. We should hate sin as well. However, Dinah’s brothers did not respond properly. “Since Shechem had defiled their sister, Dinah, Jacob’s sons responded deceitfully to Shechem and his father, Hamor” (Genesis 34:13). Shechem’s sin led to another. Jacob’s sons lied to and deceived Shechem and Hamor. They promised him their sister’s hand in marriage if he promised to be circumcised, along with all of the other men in the town. Three days after their circumcision, while they were all still too sore and weak to defend themselves, Simeon and Levi invaded the town and slaughtered every man and took Dinah back home (apparently they had left her with Shechem in order to ensure the success of their deceitful plan). Their other brothers came in behind them and plundered the town and took all of the women and children captive.
Sin is wrong, but don’t use someone else’s sin as justification for your own. Dinah’s brothers were so blinded by their rage that they acted on emotion. This wasn’t justice. Justice demands that the guilty pay for their transgression. Dinah’s brothers slaughtered the entire town and took the women and children captive. They plundered all their wealth, livestock, and possessions, profiting from their ruin. This wasn’t justice. This was another act of injustice that they felt was justified because Shechem sinned first: “’But why should we let him treat our sister like a prostitute?’ they retorted angrily” (Genesis 34:31). The proper response to sin, is not another sin. The proper response to injustice, is not another act of injustice. In order to have true justice, we need One who is completely just to execute just judgement.
In their pursuit of justice, Dinah’s brothers lost sight of the one who had been unjustly treated: Dinah. Notice, they used Dinah as bait for their trap. Did they stop and consider her in this matter? Were they only concerned about the defilement and the disgrace brought to their family that they forgot about the person? Sometimes we can get so caught up in revenge, or in executing justice, that we fail to see that we are in fact causing greater harm and pain, at times to the one who was wronged in the first place.
We should stand up for righteousness. We should take a stand against injustice. We should honor the truth in the Word of God and do all we can to uphold it, but love should be our motivation. You see, the cross changed everything, because it was on that cross that Jesus dealt with the issue of sin. He Himself bore our sin and bore the punishment for our sin. He was judged in our place, the innocent for the guilty. He took our chastisement upon Him so that we could have peace.
God takes the issue of sin very seriously, and sin demands a price. Either we acknowledge that Christ paid that price for us, or we reject His offer of salvation and choose to pay the penalty ourselves. But rest assured that no sin escapes God’s attention. He is a just Judge. He sees all, He knows all, and He won’t let sin go unpunished. God knows the wrongs that have been done to you, and the offender will be held accountable. But, do we care more about seeing someone suffer the consequences of their sin, or seeing them repent and experience the same forgiveness that we have in Christ? You see, that’s the heart of Jesus. The heart of the One who looked down from the cross at the people who unjustly condemned Him to death, beat Him, mocked Him, tortured Him, and crucified Him and said: “’Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’” (Luke 23:34).
I’m not saying that we stand back and do nothing or say nothing when someone is hurt, violated, or taken advantage of (people should be held accountable to the law; crimes should be reported to the authorities). But I am saying that the heart of the gospel needs to remain at the forefront. Above all else we should desire to see them repent and be reconciled to the One who died to save them, and all that we do should be done with that goal in mind. We should want them to experience the consequences of their sin not because we want to see them suffer, but because we want them to recognize the destructiveness and emptiness of sin and repent of it. That is, afterall, the goal of discipline: to correct and change the behavior of the offender.
Take comfort in the fact that they won’t get away with their sin. Either they will suffer the consequences of their actions in this life or in eternity. Entrust your hurt and your pain into the hands of a righteous, faithful, and just Judge. Don’t let revenge, bitterness, or hatred consume you and give way to sin in your own life. Choose Jesus. Don’t attempt to carry out your own justice, because believe me, if they refuse to repent, their fate will be far worse in the hands of the just Judge. Trust the Lord’s faithfulness to execute justice.
What was done to you was wrong; it was evil; it was unacceptable; it was a result of sin. But don’t let somebody’s else sin be an excuse for you to respond in sin. Don’t allow somebody else’s sinful choices and behavior to continue to destroy you, control you, or define you. Trust that the Lord is your defender and that He alone has the ability to heal what sin has broken, to restore what sin has destroyed, and to revive what sin has killed.