One of the Jesus People USA pastors and a member of the Resurrection Band, Glenn Kaiser here ponders the real nature of justice.
I return often in my mind to Micah 6:8; "He has told you, 0 man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"
All of us have a basic concept about what is "fair" and "not fair". A sense of justice. But justice devoid of kindness, without humility as we pass judgment on one another is not biblical justice at all. Perhaps vengeance (God says leave that to him), may provide outlet for our wrath (which doesn't work the righteousness of God), but it is not at all justice.
In the Western world we are sloshing through a relative flotsam and jetsam of litigation unparalleled in history. Never have so many gone to law with one ultimate goal: the securing of their "rights". Or at least in order to get what they want, right or wrong.
Certainly the widow, orphan, minorities and oppressed ought to be served and yes, legally represented that their rights - often violated -be respected. But I am afraid that those making the most use of the best barristers and justice systems in the world today are not those I just listed. They are rather the wealthy, the famous, the already relatively powerful, not the common person. In fact, the youngest, least experienced and likely to succeed lawyers are the ones made available to the poorest in the dock. There you have (certainly, American) "justice" in practice, circa 1996.
We must also consider the perceptions of individuals. If I perceive that my personal rights have been violated, then I "play the trump card". I publish abroad and "vent" my perceptions as absolute truth in the near certainty that SOMEONE will agree with me and therefore lend credence to my claim. In such scenarios, we are finding it more and more difficult to separate biological mental patients from genuinely abused victims. A daughter takes "repressed memories" into court and a father is sent to prison for the bulk of the rest of his life. A man who has molested (or sinned in any other way) should reap...what? What if he is actually innocent? And if guilty, how ought this to be proved? Unfortunately, empirical proof, actual verifiable documentable Truth is often hard to get at, and so for the sake of closure judgments are made on the basis of "perception". I thank God it isn't that way with him! What he perceives to be so, IS so.
I am not saying here that we aren't trying, nor can I offer a better (for the most part) system of justice than the basic British and similar American model. What I am saying is that too many times, truth takes a back seat to feelings; perceptions and plain "get what you can/want out of this and go on."
But there is a core issue here. Do we really want truth? How does one get at THE TRUTH and beyond the "perception" of what is claimed happened in a particular slice of time and space? Which judicial posts are blessed with people of integrity willing to work long and hard for what GOD would consider "justice" in the everyday work of such an office? My guess (certainly researched to some degree) is that the "system" is only as ethical, moral, truth-seeking as it is incorruptible. In other words, integrity begins and ends with the character of God who is thoroughly incorruptible, utterly truthful (Truth Incarnate) and totally perfect in all his judgments, yet his "mercy triumphs over judgment". As the Psalmist says, if he dealt with us according to our iniquities... but with him there is mercy. This is not at the heart of much supposed "justice", not even in the churches much less in the courts of law as I see it. God help us!
Frankly, few Christians that I have met (and I must include myself) have really weighed the deeper issues of justice on a PERSONAL basis. We have not been willing to be "defrauded". We have refused to "turn the other cheek". We are fine at "love talk" but when it is our turn to "forgive", how quickly and thoroughly do we do it? Can the sheer name or mental picture of anyone you know or have known cause you to think anything other than thoughts of love, mercy and forgiveness towards them? Will you reap mercy, or simply what you have sown in such a case? What does Jesus mean when he tells us "As you forgive, so shall you be forgiven"? Whew!
The issue of justice must focus more on God and Truth than on my personal desire for vengeance, reputation saving, having my way at the end of it all.
The most unfair act I can imagine happened on Calvary to the only sinless person to have ever walked the earth. Justice was served, if we will have it in it's purest form. What did that act really teach us about both justice and mercy? Humility?
Fact is, much of what will happen to you and I will NOT be fair. We've all heard the old saying "Life isn't fair." True indeed. But God will have the last word on justice. That is a pre-ordained fact also.
As always, the Lord has the last word. 1 Peter 2:23 reminds us that Jesus... "while being reviled, he did not revile in return; while suffering, he uttered no threats, but kept entrusting (himself) to him who judges righteously."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
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