Essential Truth about God—Justice
We humans desire justice. Even those with obvious marks of depravity understand the need for justice. Our entire legal system is predicated upon the notion that justice is not only desired it is attainable. Civilizations that place a high priority on justice will often be wealthier and happier. Two words related to justice used often today are fairness and equality. Although, there is a lot of socio-political baggage that accompanies those two words, in their purest form, we have an ingrained sense for pursuing fairness and equality. But why does this pursuit and sense of justice occupy such a central role in civilized society? God himself typifies pure justice and he chose to communicate that attribute upon us through creation in his image. We not only inherit depravity from our father Adam, but every human also inherits the communicable attributes of God. It is part of what makes us human and distinct from animals.
In Revelation 15:3, the song of the redeemed includes this line concerning God, “Just and true are your ways O King of the saints.” In 1 John 1:9, the author appeals to the faithfulness and justice of God as the basis for forgiveness and cleansing. In Psalm 89:14, we read that justice and judgment are the habitation of God’s throne, meaning that the foundation of God’s authoritative rule rests upon his justice, his righteousness. The Hebrew has two words that are sometimes translated justice, one also translates as righteous or right (which is the most common word), the other is judgment which refers more to the official concept of passing judgment on righteousness or wickedness. In the New Testament Greek language, the word justice is the same word as righteousness or rightness. To say that the Scripture teaches that God is just is an obvious understatement.
No true professing Christian would loudly proclaim that God is unfair, unrighteous or unjust; yet every Christian at some point has struggled and most likely continues to struggle with living out in faith the truth that God is truly just or righteous. This struggle with God’s justice is an internal one borne out of a seeming contradiction from what we have hid in our heart concerning God’s perfect justice and what we experience and observe in our normative circumstances. Clearly when we observe our lives and the circumstances of everyday life, we do not always see justice at work. This often causes us to think some variation of the following thought, “If God is just then why did that bad or terrible thing happen to [insert name of person]?” We struggle to reconcile the justice of God with the seeming injustice of our world in its fallen condition. But the emotional experiences and temporary observations do not infringe upon the characteristic of God. God is not just (or righteous) because he does what is right, but he does what is right because he is just. This is a slight contrast in that compound sentence and we must consider the ramifications of this. If we determine God is just because we observe just things, we will find ourselves depicting the perfections of God based upon our fallible senses. But if we simply take God at his Word and interpret our fallen world in light of God’s justice we will be safer from anti-Biblical judgments. We must be disciplined to look at everything around us and seek to make sense of our circumstances in light of God’s justice rather than to seek to makes sense of God based upon our circumstances.
If God is just, and the Scripture resolutely describes him as such, then this has lasting ramifications both in this life and the life come. First, it means that no unjust or unrighteous act can go unnoticed and even unpunished by God. For God to equivocate once in allowing an unrighteous deed to go without judgment (in this life or the life to come) would consequently mean he has no justice. Second, it means that what we often view as unjust (or unfair) may not be so. Since justice comes from God, he determines what is just or not. Third, it means that we not only need forgiveness for our unrighteousness (the just dying for the unjust) but we need to be people who love justice and seek it in our temporal human relationships. Fourth, the justice of God demands either severe punishment or severe mercy. To Be continued. . .