thoughts on justice
“They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.” -Thomas Jefferson – The Declaration of Independence.
In perhaps the most famous document in American history, our third president lays the foundation for an emerging free people defiant of repeated tyranny and injustice from Great Britain. All pleas having fallen on ‘deaf ears’ resulted in separation from England and the sanctification of a new nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
What is Justice?
“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”- ISAIAH 1:17
According to Isaiah 1, justice has to do with defending the oppressed, advocating for the fatherless and appealing for the widow. But taken in context, these characteristics of justice are very conditional, in fact in verse 16 Isaiah calls on Judah [and the reader] to make themselves clean and to stop doing wrong. And in verses 19-20, the land and its people are called upon to be obedient and not rebellious, because their very fate revolves around their choice.
“If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land, but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” Isaiah 1:19-20
The Results of Disobedience
Let’s not cut Jesus’ instructions short in Matthew 28. He didn’t instruct his disciples to teach their followers “about” His commands, he instructed them to teach their followers to “obey” His commands. Head knowledge without action is disobedience, and we can search the scriptures and find countless other examples of faith being brought to completion by works. So there is movement in the spiritual and the physical before justice can truly be had; it’s a movement of repentance and an act of obedience.
In Contrast to Wrath
~Wrath is oftentimes misunderstood. It’s a term with bad connotation for some, as it’s typically used in the doom and gloom/legalist circuits. Its short definition, to me, is punishment ultimately reserved until the time of judgment. The woes to those who disobey are certainly not unjust and neither is His patience in waiting for the transformation of their hearts. God’s exceeding love and patience trumps this ultimate fate and Paul explains God’s deference to mercy and justice for the present.
“What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?” – Romans 9:22-24
We see with this scripture, amazingly, that wrath cannot fall within the confines of justice, and vice versa, because God has chosen to reserve wrath in order to favor patience and mercy, at least for the time being.
In Contrast to ‘Fairness’
~Fairness has become a very culturally relevant word and one leveraged often by the politically correct crowd. The problem is that fairness does not equal justice; they aren’t interchangeable parts. Justice isn’t relative to culture or government, A: because God doesn’t change and B: because God is always at the center of justice. Nobody else has the privilege of defining justice or labeling it truthfully, that’s God’s job, and He does it more than sufficiently through His word and His Son.
“For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them.” ISAIAH 61:8
If what’s fair was also what’s just, consider Jesus hanging on a cross for the very scoffers that divided his clothes. That’s not fair under any cultural or human paradigm, but it is just, according to God’s great purpose. Here we can see the danger of substituting God’s justice for ‘fairness,’ words that simply don’t mean the same thing. I have already seen this form of ‘compromise’ many times in my young life and found one plain truth in it all: when you pit cultural relativism up against the Gospel of Christ, you find that what’s seemingly relative pales in comparison to what is constant, and we as Christians know that Christ is constant.