Justice makes for great drama. It is the centerpiece of many tv shows, movies, and books because the search for justice is epic and dramatic. In the movie A Time to Kill a lawyer’s closing arguments are a truly enlightening thought about the dramatic difficulties of seeing and finding justice in our world.
In all this legal maneuvering something got lost. That something is the truth. It is incumbent upon us lawyers not to just talk about the truth but to actually seek it to find it, to live it. My teacher taught me that.
What in us seeks truth? Our minds or is it our hearts? I tried to prove a black man could get a fair trial in the South that we are all equal in the eyes of the law. That’s not the truth. The eyes of the law are human eyes yours and mine, and until we can see each other as equals justice is never going to be evenhanded. It will only be a reflection of our own prejudices. So until that day we have a duty under God to seek the truth not with our minds where fear and hate turn commonality into prejudice but with our hearts…
This is one of the most powerful cinematic scenes I have ever seen. The lawyer went on to describe the horrors committed against a young black girl in graphic detail and concluded by asking the jury to imagine the girl was white. Justice immediately looked different.
Whether we want to admit it or not justice is dramatic because it is difficult. The difficulty of justice is often not the case, the situation, or the decision. Often what makes justice difficult is us. It is our own hearts, our own prejudices, our own thought patterns, or simply our own selfishness.
Justice is a topic the Christian must consider. Justice is something a follower of Christ must be FOR. Too often we as, the followers of Christ, are known for the things we are against and not the things we are for. (We are currently addressing some of these issues in our current sermon series – FOR.)
We must always remember, however, that ultimately we, as the followers of Christ, are for the glory and Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These other issues are not ultimately what we are for; they are consequently what we are for. Justice, Life, Family, and Freedom are not ultimately what we stand for; they are consequently what we stand for. These are the consequences of the Gospel and salvation not the cause nor the substance of salvation. Being for justice will not save a soul; but saved souls ought to be for justice.
Justice is not the Gospel; Jesus is. When you speak justice but you fail to speak Jesus, you do not do Jesus, nor justice, justice.
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
Micah was a farmer – as best we know. He came from a place that only farmers came from because that was the only thing to do there – farm. He had no particular power or position to speak to the people of God, yet God gave him a calling and clear message. He spoke into the life of Israel at a time that they were guilty of grave injustices. They were especially guilty of injustice toward, as Timothy Keller describes in his book Generous Justice, the quartet of the vulnerable – the widow, the orphan, the immigrant, and the poor. It is in this situation that Micah speaks the words above.
If you want to do good then you need to DO justice, LOVE kindness, and walk HUMBLY with God.
Justice is something you believe in when it is something you act upon. Justice is not sentiment nor nice thought. Justice is action and work. The word here from the Hebrew being used for justice means more than the righting of a wrong. It means the doing of right toward the wronged (and the vulnerable).
Job defends himself as just not by saying I have not oppressed the widow and orphan, but I have done good toward them. I have been just towards them. Often in western thought we have a very short-sighted view of justice. For us, when a wrong is punished justice is served.
I have been convicted of one crime in my life – criminal mischief. My 4 friends and I that got busted pulling a stupid prank had to pay a collective of around $2000 in fines and fees. The interesting issue to me is that we stole some decorations from yards and destroyed a few things owned by people in the process. Those people – who we took property from and damaged the property of – did not get a dime. Justice was served when we were punished; but we were not required to make anything right toward those we wronged. Often this is how we see justice. But justice is much more than that.
Ridding an injustice does not right an injustice.
The young child experiencing molestation does not receive justice simply because some adults find and out and make sure it stops. That is not justice. Justice is punishment of the perpetrator AND work to nurture the child physically, emotionally, and spiritually so they know are of value and worth. This child needs to know that they worthy of justice. When full justice is not brought they often grow up and struggle to see that they are worth justice and have full value.
When we as a nation ruled slavery illegal we ridded ourselves of a practice of terrible injustice but we did not make right the injustice suffered. We simply stopped it from being continued. When we gave to minorities equal rights and banned Jim Crow laws we ridded ourselves of many injustices but we did not make right those injustices. Ridding an injustice is not righting an injustice.
And this is why justice is dramatic and difficult.
If we, as humans, are going to do justice we must LOVE kindness. Jesus was capable of anger without sin, but we struggle with it. When Jesus walked into the temple and courts of the Gentiles was being used as a marketplace but the court of the Jews was a place of worship, the discrimination infuriated him and drove people out with a whip saying, “you have made this a den of thieves.” Jesus did this and did not sin. We struggle to do that.
Doing justice requires loving kindness. Justice is more than punishing wrong; it is also giving to the vulnerable and the wronged their rights and what is right. This requires kindness as much as it requires justice. This loving kindness is an unconditional view for good toward others.
We must understand that forgiveness is never an act of injustice. It is never wrong for the one who has been wronged to forgive the one who has wronged them. It is, however, injustice for someone to have the ability to hold someone accountable for their wrong actions taken from them. It is always a good thing to forgive, but it is an unjust thing to force a false forgiveness by robbing someone of their right to hold account a wrong suffered.
Loving kindness creates the space for grace. We all live in spaces for grace. In every relationship. Any person that you have a right relationship with after more than a few hours or days of knowing them is providing you a space for grace. Why? Because we all wrong one another – even if in little ways. We live with a certain level of loving kindness towards others every day – unfortunately just not with everyone.
When we walk humbly with our God we have the capacity to do justice and love kindness. God Himself is the source of such capacity. It is by His Spirit that we learn to love our enemies and to bless those who curse us. It is by the Spirit of God that we learn how to go the second mile and to speak truth in love.
Humility gives us the capacity to see injustice – including our own. We will never bring justice to injustices we refuse to see, to causes we refuse to hear, or to people we refuse to value.
The justified are just. We, the followers of Christ, have been justified by and in Christ. This means we who were in wrong standing with God are now in right standing with God even though we had no capacity to make ourselves right.
When God made him who knew no sin to become sin so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21)– he brought justice in Christ on our behalf. Jesus suffered – not our injustice. Jesus suffered what was our just punishment for sin – but he did so much more than that.
Ye,s justification means that all of our sins have been put on Jesus; but it also means all of his righteousness has been put on us. Jesus has been fully treated as if he fully did everything we have done wrong. We, therefore, can now be treated as if we have fully done everything Jesus has done right. We have the capacity and the command to do justice because justice has not been avoided nor abolished. Justice has been fulfilled.
I encourage you to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. But remember – ultimately the world does not need justice. Ultimately our world needs Jesus. Yet, if we are going to give the world Jesus – we need to give them justice. Be wise though, your greatest injustice in the world could be giving the world justice without giving Jesus justice. Give them Jesus for he is just.
A second blog will post tomorrow addressing how to view justice when you are the one that has suffered the injustice.