In the words of Stanley Hauerwas, “I’m a pacifist because I am a violent son of a bitch.”
Regardless of one’s position on pacifism, I think we can all agree that all of us, at one time or another, are violent (to be clear, this is not limited to physical violence).
Perhaps the way our propensity to violence is most manifest is in our demand for retributive justice when we or someone else has been egregiously wronged or hurt.
It is at this point that I echo Jurgen Moltmann: I cannot be a universalist because there are some people I never want to see again (and, I would add, there are those whom I never want to see – tyrants from the past and present).
Such is the nature of our desire (and need?) for retribution – to strike back at our enemies in order to achieve justice. At some point in our lives, I think we are all wannabe vigilantes because we are often violent SOBs. We want justice, we want it now and we want it on our own terms.
Similarly, I want God’s justice to be retributive because I want to hurt those who’ve hurt me. I want those who’ve done wrong to burn in hell.
But is God’s justice retributive? Or is it something else? If Christ is the manifestation of what God’s justice looks like and if Christ is the realization of God’s justice, then God’s justice cannot be retributive precisely because retribution is not Christ’s modus operandi.
In the end, I cannot be a universalist because I am a violent SOB.
But, I hope, pray, and trust that the God of love revealed in Jesus Christ is.