I call upon You, Lord, God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob and Israel, You who are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of your mercy, was well-pleased towards us so that we may know You, who made heaven and earth, who rules over all, You who are the one and the true God, above whom there is no other God; You who, by our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, give to every one who reads this writing to know You, that You alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical and godless and impious teaching.

St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Law Court Justice in Christian Perspective

Reconciling Christianity toward suspects and convicted persons, yet at the same time pursuing justice for the offender and for the victim is in itself recognizing that this is truly the epitome of the meaning of justice found in the very character of God.  Justice, according to Black’s Law Dictionary (2011), is, “The fair and proper administration of laws” (p. 426).  This vague definition, especially for the Christian, demands what is “fair and proper,” but does nothing to explain what exactly that means. 

Walter C. Kaiser (1983), offers this in regards to justice, “Justice demands impartiality; not compliance with the masses or favoritism to the poor, and would also be best served by extending that same impartiality even to one’s enemies” (p. 110; see Ex. 23:1-9; Lev. 19:15; Deut. 22:1-3).  This obviously moves us toward a more biblically-informed approach to justice.  Christians are to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God (Mic. 6:8).  This means that justice is commanded for the Christian.  As such, what does this justice look like?

Justice and righteousness are, according to Peter A. De Vos (1973), “nearly synonymous” (p. 360).  This means that the righteousness of the Lord is the justice of the Lord.  God himself is justice and righteousness.  Jeremiah 50:7 says, “All that found them have devoured them: and their adversaries said, we offend not, because they have sinned against the LORD, the habitation of justice, even the LORD, the hope of their fathers.”  To effectively administer justice, is to recognize that God himself has established its basis.  Kaiser (1983) rightly offers,

What, then, I would ask, is God’s honour apart from God’s justice?  His honour can be nothing but the reflex action or display of His moral attributes; and in the exercise of these attributes, the fundamental and controlling element is justice.  Every one of them is conditioned; love itself is conditioned by the demands of justice; and to provide scope for the operation of love in justifying the ungodly consistently with those demands, is the very ground and reason of the atonement—its ground and reason primarily in the mind of God, and because there, then also in its living image, the human conscience, which instinctively regards punishment as ‘recoil of the eternal law of right against the transgressor,’ and cannot attain solid peace but through the medium of valid expiation.  Thus has the law been most signally established by that very feature of the Gospel, which specifically distinguished it from the law—its display of the redeeming love of God in Christ (p. 147-148).

It is clear from this explanation that God’s justice and God’s love are mutually dependent. 

As such, the Christian can rightly seek justice for the offender and for the victim and at the same time seek God’s love in acting “Christianly” towards the suspects and convicted persons.  For it is through God’s justice that Christ died to pay the penalty for sin and our transgression against the holy God.  But, by God’s grace, it is through God’s love that this act satisfied the penalty for our sins and thus made us righteous before the same God.  As Psalm 89:14 says, “Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.”  Christians can seek justice for the transgression and still exhibit love and kindness towards the transgressor. 



Black’s law dictionary (2011) (4th ed.). Bryan A Garner (Ed.). St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Company.

De Vos, Peter A. (1973). Justice. In Baker’s dictionary of Christian ethics. Carl F. H. Henry (Ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company.

Kaiser. Walter C. Jr. (1983). Toward Old Testament ethics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

No comments:

Post a Comment