Every society has to deal with the occurrence of murder. Here we see God approaching it with justice and so much mercy. He lays out the appropriate actions between manslaughter and murder. My Bible directed me over to Numbers 35:6-19, where we get a few more details. The accused murderer could flee and stay in the designated city of refuge until their case went to trial. Innocent until proven guilty.
This setup is a beautiful piece of God’s character and is consistent with who he is. It makes me think of 1 Corinthians 13:7:
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
God believes the best in us. When my husband and I went through premarital counseling, this was something that was highlighted; believing the best in each other. Newly engaged and enchanted with each other, we eagerly nodded in agreement. Months later, wondering if my husband left un-rinsed dishes on the counter out of spite, the verse appeared in my head. Loving him in that moment would be choosing to believe that he ran late, had other things on his mind and planned to revisit them later. That moment called for believing all things. (And a small reality check, because worrying about dishes is petty.)
God knows our tendencies. He knows our sin patterns, he knows the endings to our stories, yet still his mercy is new every morning. Still, he loves us, believes the best in us and extends his mercy and grace. And he’s asking us to do the same.
I kind of wonder what it would be like on the other end of the story. If someone I love was killed, accident or not, I would desire justice. Or probably, revenge. And instead, God is offering protection and a place to hide out. Sometimes I want to be the only one who receives God’s endless forgiveness and I want all my enemies to experience his wrath. I don’t want to give the benefit of the doubt. I don’t want to believe the best in someone because I know better and they repeat the same offenses all the time.
God is not asking us to become doormats, ignore discernment and blindly continue to be hurt by people, boundary-free.
God is asking us to join him in being merciful. To respond to people lovingly first, leave justice in his hands and approach the situation the way we would want to be approached.
My son and I were in a car accident with a drunk driver recently. They ran a red light and sped off after the collision, hitting two more cars. They left us all in the middle of the intersection, batting down air bags and screaming. For a while, I held off resentment and tried to focus my thought-life on the fact that we were all safe. Every driver involved experienced only minor injuries and were all enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, alive and well, later that week. Eventually, the police report was released and we got the full story. To spare the details, this wasn’t a crazy, once-in-a-lifetime accident blanketed in remorse.
I felt hurt, angry, violated, annoyed and afraid along the way. My people encouraged me to acknowledge the emotions as part of the healing process. But by God’s grace, I did not fixate my resentment onto them. As a result of that, there’s no bitterness (today). This is major growth for me! If you’ve ever obsessed over the villain in the story before, you know it’s exhausting. And a waste of time. And it doesn’t change anything.
How do you respond when you’ve been wronged? How does God want you to respond?
How do you respond when you’ve done something wrong? How does God respond?