JUSTICE IS A COMMITMENT TO CONSISTENCY OF LAW
Justice is closely related to holiness and love rather than being a contrasting principle. When there are many things sharing common time and space – whether atoms in molecular orbit or people in a city – laws are needed to prevent chaos. Good laws are motivated by love, for the benefit of all.
But laws would be meaningless without a commitment to uphold them. Justice – which is the use of authority and power to uphold laws – is a basic requirement for life in community.
The Bible says that God is just. In other words, he has committed himself to act consistently in accord with his own spiritual laws.
To us, justice can mean either fear or security. We have nothing to fear when we understand and obey God’s laws, but we stand in terrible jeopardy when we disregard them. Just as walking off a cliff will bring tragedy for disregard of physical law, so refusing to listen to God will bring tragedy for disregard of spiritual law.
GOD USES SAME PRINCIPLES OF JUSTICE WE USE
In God’s execution of justice, as in our human execution, there are four paramount principles:
- Freedom must be protected
- Laws must be good, announced and enforced
- Commitments must be honored
- Punishment must be commensurate with offense
The Bible tells how God applies these four principles of justice to our individual lives:
FREEDOM – God allows individual choice. Every person decides the kind of life he wants to live, now and for eternity (see Topics 6 and 48). God expresses his will, but he doesn’t force it on anyone.
LAWS – God has explained his design plan and announced his spiritual laws (basic principles) in the Bible (see Topics 5-8, 32 and 47). The laws are for our own good and quality of life is best when we follow them. Everyone is guilty of serious violations of spiritual law and therefore subject to punishment under God’s justice, but – this is the absolutely amazing part – he offers a complete pardon to everyone who personally accepts Jesus Christ as substitute and personal Savior (see Topics 52-62). In other words, there’s a way we can be just as acceptable to God as if we’d never violated a single law! But without the pardon, we’re subject to the punishment.
COMMITMENTS – God gives us a choice – accept or reject the Savior – and he holds everyone to the eternal consequences of his own decision (see Topics 56-59). God will honor his commitment to everyone who chooses the Savior and he’ll abandon everyone who chooses to be left alone.
PUNISHMENT – The worst sin is rejecting God’s offer of a Savior (see Topic 6) and for that worst sin a person gets the worst punishment – hell – which is eternal separation from God (see Topics 50-51).
If God is just, why does he allow injustice?
Justice means upholding what’s right by punishing what’s wrong.
God administers justice at two different levels: At one level, he deals with mankind as a GROUP. At another level, he deals with each person as an INDIVIDUAL.
Adam and Eve were the first man and woman on earth. God told them that they could eat fruit from any tree except one. They challenged God by eating the forbidden fruit and tried to hide from him. He imposed this punishment:
Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.
– Genesis 3:17-19
The punishment didn’t pertain to just the first man and woman, but to all their offspring and to the environment.
At first thought it might seem unfair that people living today should have to pay the penalty for sins of ancestors. But the objection is really moot because everyone knows that everyone disobeys God. We sin individually in our own ways today, and therefore punishment of the whole human race is appropriate.
It’s true that we all sin because God designed us vulnerable to temptation, but free will is an essential part of love (see Topics 6 and 48).
In group punishment, certain individuals suffer more than others. Afflictions strike the group at random. A flood, a disease or a thief will strike without regard to the victim’s degree of sin.
Considerable temporary injustice – unequal hurt resulting from group punishment – is unavoidable when life is lived in community with others, especially as people prey upon one another for personal advantage.
Group punishment actually experienced by most people is relatively minor compared to extreme punishment, especially compared to hell. And the duration of group punishment (less than 100 years on earth) is but a tiny fraction of the duration of individual punishment (eternity in hell). Therefore, God’s justice is seen most clearly and importantly at the individual level.
Group justice pertains to but a moment of eternity, but individual justice pertains to the whole of it!
There’s a judgment coming after death when everyone, personally, will stand before God to give account of his sins and how he dealt with them. By knowing spiritual law from the Bible and knowing that God is just, we can know now what we’ll hear on judgment day.
Staying within the bounds of justice, God satisfies the penalty for sin by providing a perfect substitute (Jesus Christ) for everyone who accepts him as Savior in this lifetime. (It’s like someone standing before the judge and paying the fine for a friend.) Everyone gets justice... but not everyone gets heaven, only those who accept the Savior (see Topics 52-62).
Here’s a sampling of what the Bible says on this subject.
God of justice
God governs with justice
Man gets justice from God
Ultimately everyone gets justice
Christ’s sacrifice demonstrates God’s justice
For help, see Topic 29.
See Topic 51 for the story Jesus told to illustrate God’s justice.