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What is just?

I'm writing this email from a train in Northern Germany. I apologize for choosing email over video or podcast for today's message.


Over the past week, I've been in southern Germany, exploring places with historical ties to the National Socialist party. We visited the site in Munich where Hitler led his followers in 1923 and the remains of the conference hall in Nuremberg where he planned his "thousand-year" reign.


As an American, it's surreal to experience this history because I was raised with a negative perception of Germans. In school, I was taught to view them as evil and the enemy, with the belief that Americans were superior due to being on the "right side."


However, my perspective changed when I encountered real-life Nazis. In Munich, we entered a coin shop with Third Reich-era coins. The shop owner expressed strong opinions about the war and Germans as a superior race. This encounter made me reevaluate my feelings.


Throughout my time in Germany, I observed how people of different races reacted to us and each other. I received stares from Muslims, pitying looks from the French, and disgust from some Germans. I began to pray about my feelings towards these people and realized I needed to assess my heart.


In Nuremberg, we had another unpleasant encounter at a pub. We were met with hostile stares from employees and patrons, and the bartender, wearing a cross, treated us poorly. I felt like we were being unforgiven for our country's role in stopping their ambitions and post-WWII prosperity.


Following this experience, I remembered 1 John 1:9, which speaks about confession and forgiveness. It reminded me that forgiveness equals justice when sins are confessed. What we often perceive as justice is actually punishment and self-defense. When someone harms us, we seek retribution, but God defines justice as forgiveness.


Christ's sacrifice on the cross covers all sins, so holding onto unforgiveness is unjust. Even if people hold racism in their hearts, forgiving them is just because confession is all that's required.


If you ever struggle with defending yourself against undeserved hatred, remember 1 John 1:9 and that the answer is not self-defense but walking in justice, which means forgiveness.

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