“That’s not fair” is a familiar sound whenever you have a number of children playing together. Even the youngest of children have a sense of justice. We seem to be born with an inbuilt sense of what we think is fair and something bubbles up from within whenever we think that someone has been unfair to us. Surely we are just in seeking justice!
The bible has a lot to say on the subject as you might expect. What you might not expect is what it has to say!
One thing is clear in all this. God really cares about justice. The prophet Isaiah says “For the LORD is a God of justice.” Psalm 33 says “The LORD loves righteousness and justice”. God really cares that justice is brought about on the earth. We are made in the image of God and this goes some way to explaining the inbuilt desire we have for justice.
When it comes to justice for others (particularly the vulnerable) the bible is very clear.
- “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
- “And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
- “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.” Psalm 82:3
All right and proper so far. It is when we turn our attention to personal justice that things get interesting. In examining our approach to personal justice we should look to the greatest example that we have, Jesus. If anyone was justified in seeking his own justice it was Jesus, after all he never did anything wrong!
“38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” Matthew 5 v38
Some have tried to use the phrase “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth” to justify fighting back but taken in its original context it simply means that all judgement should be in proportion and fair. Jesus is telling us not to worry about getting a fair result. Jesus’s approach to personal justice really jars with what our society tells us is our right. It really is completely counter cultural. Without doubt people will take notice when we respond as Jesus did. As Christians we need to seriously question whether we should be joining in the cacophony of people declaring their rights.
When it comes to justice for ourselves we are told to leave it to God. After all when we are seeking justice for ourselves it very easily spills over into revenge. The bible is pretty clear on what to do with that.
“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” Romans 12:9
The trouble we have is that trusting God often means there is not an immediate and directly measurable response! We want justice now! Trusting God can mean you will never see justice in your lifetime. Are we OK with that? One of the reasons we are not advised to seek our own justice is that we cannot remain impartial. Paul reminds us of the dangers of commending ourselves or thinking we are correct based on our own thinking.
” 12 We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” 2 Corinthians 10:12
There is only one person who is completely unbiased and impartial and that is God himself. When we leave personal justice up to him we can rest assured the result will be fair. The way of Jesus and the cross is clear. We must lay down our rights and our lives, live a life of love while trusting that God is in complete control. Jesus showed us what this looks like perfectly.
” 23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” 1 Peter 2:23