Movies and crime novels have given us the impression that justice is when the “bad guy” gets punished for his actions. We expect that the things that we consider evil will ultimately result in the punishment of those people who are deemed responsible.
But the truth is a lot of innocent people are punished for the crimes of others. We hear stories about people who spent years behind bars for crimes they never committed and we get mad. “Where is the justice?” we may ask. “Where was God when the law was being misinterpreted? Where was He when evidence was being misconstrued so that the wrong person got punished? Why is God so unfair?”
I used to ask many of those same questions. I couldn’t understand why God allowed things like child abuse and incest and murder of the innocent. It took a long time for me to realize that the sinful things that happen as a result of our decision to disobey God hurt him a lot more than it hurts us.
God doesn’t like it when bad things happen any more than we do. But a part of respecting our free will means that He has to allow the consequences of our actions to play out in a world that is hell-bent on running away from Him.
It’s for that reason, my friend that I want to remind you that God is a just God. In order for us to believe that we have to understand the difference between societal justice and biblical justice.
Biblical vs Societal Justice
The Oxford Dictionary defines justice as: “justness, fairness, the exercise of authority in the maintenance of right.” In other words, justice is doing what is considered fair. The problem with that is a lot of times our view of what’s right is wrapped up in what we think is deserved. What we consider fair is relative. It shifts according to our belief system—what I was taught to be fair may differ greatly from what you hold as justice and never the twain shall meet.
This is where God differs from us—His view of what is morally right is part of His character and is not determined by circumstances. God is the only being who has an intrinsic and unchangeable knowledge of what is right. His viewpoint is not shifty. His view of what is right is not dependent on anything outside of Himself.
Here are just five ways that God proves Himself to be fair:
God asks of mankind to be just/fair in their dealings with others.
What I love about God is that he calls us to do what He himself does.
“A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is His delight.” (Proverbs 11:1 KJV)
There is a practice among some grocers—they put a little extra weight at the bottom of their scale so that you never get the full weight that you pay for. Now, I’m sure they think they are being oh-so-clever when actually they are making themselves detestable to God. God is not pleased when we rob and cheat each other. He calls us to a higher standard. He wants us to be fair, even as we try to earn a living.
We are asked to display fair judgements:
“You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 16:18-20 ESV)
God recognized early on that our sinful nature meant that we would be inclined to be partial and that’s why he warns us against it. These two ideas are combined in Leviticus 19 along with the declaration “I am the Lord” which I take to mean, “I don’t do it so I hold you to the same standards I hold myself.”
God treats all humanity the same
He does not show partiality to the rich over the poor. Neither does he discriminate based on class, gender, nationality, race or any other creed.
There’s a song that became popular in 1988 following Hurricane Gilbert. In it, there’s a little reference to a Rastafarian who was sitting in his house watching the devastation of the storm and getting excited when the houses of the people who he believed had slighted him were destroyed. He took it to mean that Selassie (the Rastafarian god) was executing judgement on his behalf.
“…anyone can obtain forgiveness from God. All it takes is a humble heart and a willingness to ask for it.”
Everything was fun and games until the storm blew off his roof. At that point, he became convinced that his god had made a mistake. While it may be comical to listen to, that’s exactly the viewpoint that many of us take. We want God to wreak havoc on our enemies but we want him to show us mercy.
We all get the blessings of rain though he is able to discriminate (Matthew 5:45). We all benefit from the shelter of the planet, the resources that are found here and all the beauty that is available in nature. If God treated us according to society’s definition of justice, we would have to prove our worth. We would have to compete for the world’s resources and somehow justify that we deserve them.
He forgives anyone who asks
One of my favourite promises is found in 1 John: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” ( 1 John 1:9, HCSB)
This tells us that anyone can obtain forgiveness from God. All it takes is a humble heart and a willingness to ask for it. Sometimes we think that this provision; this offer of grace became available after the death of Jesus. But it was always there.
When we read the book of Leviticus we realize that provision was made for the rich and the poor to offer sacrifices before God and receive forgiveness. Sure, the animal sacrifice was different but both required a contrite heart and willing sacrifice.
Jesus died for the sins of all humanity
There were no conditions. He didn’t die for the sins of everyone born before 2027 or for people who had two parents born between the months of September and January or any such requirement. If we accept the gift of His life, we choose to believe in Jesus and confess that He is Lord.
Had this been a court of law, though we are presumed innocent until proven guilty, every attempt would have been made to demonstrate our guilt. Either that or an attempt made to discredit us hence proving that we were ultimately guilty of whatever it was that we were being accused of.
Justice is built into God’s character
You know another thing I love about God? The way He continues to keep his promise long after we stop doing what was required of us or what we promised to do.
Have you ever made a bargain with God? Like, have you ever said: “God, if you give me this then I will—(Fill in the blank)? I have. Nine times out of ten when God gives us what we ask for, we promptly forget about our promise.
One of the greatest displays of God’s faithfulness is the biblical account of the Israelites. God, through his servant Moses, outlined the requirements of being chosen by Him. God even went so far as to tell the Israelites the punishment for disobedience. The Israelites listened, acknowledged the words of the Lord and agreed to abide by them.
Yet, a few years down the line, they did exactly what God told them they would have done. But did God immediately execute the judgement that was in line with their crimes? No. The Israelites continued to receive grace despite their idolatry as God sent prophet after prophet to call their hearts back to him.
Today we still receive grace despite our choices. Free will is not overridden even when we self-hurt—destroy the environment and each other. Through it all God continues to have mercy on us allowing us to live out our days.
So let me ask you the question: Is God just? How has He proven himself to you?