Friday, December 5, 2014


There's been a lot of talk lately about justice. It's an interesting concept, isn't it? The trouble I think I'm having with all of this, and I've reserved comment for good reason, is that I don't think man truly has a concept of justice. Not between men.

What is justice?

If you look at the world around you today, you might be tempted to think that justice is anger leading to shame, or that justice is hate leading to fear. These are the ways we do it down here. We get furious and demand "justice," but that justice is not just; it's vengeful. We don't want what justice is; we want what we want. We want an indictment. We want guilt. We want a man to feel sorry for what he's done. We hate the fallen man. We absolutely hate him for his injustice, and we want him to feel the same fear we do. We want him to know what it's like to be in a world that isn't just, so our justice still isn't justice; it's a return of injustice. It is us dishing out what we feel we've received. An eye for an eye, or so they say. An injustice for an injustice. 

But two wrongs never make a right.

When we do justice, it's about taking a fallen man and putting our foot on him. It's about keeping him down. It's about resisting his efforts to raise himself back up. It's about making sure he always knows what a lesser man he is. That's not justice. Do you know how you know? Because it has no chance of restoring a man. 

God has never intended to hold a man down. He calls us to build a man up.

Still, what about when a man does wrong? How does the fallen man face justice? What even is justice?

Justice is letting a man see how far he's fallen. It's showing him his own cracks. It's holding him accountable not to the standards of other men, but to the standards of the man that he is, the man that God created him to be. Justice was never meant to induce shame or guilt or fear; it was meant to break a man's heart as he looks in a mirror and sees truly himself and knows this is not what he was meant to be. 

A man, when he knows he's fallen short, will feel shame and guilt, sure, and if that's what you're after, this works there, too. But it is the broken-heartedness that will lead him to be a better man. It is his realization of the measure of all he is not, when he knows in his heart that he ought to be, that will lead him to be more of that man. It's knowing how far he's fallen, feeling the distance he's put between himself and himself, between himself and his God, between himself and his community that will drive him to better things. 

And how do we get there? It's hard, but it's not through hate. It's not through anger. You can't be mad at a man and speak truth to his heart. You can't hate him and love him at the same time. Injustice has been done. It's done every day in this world. The godly look at injustice the same from both sides - with broken-heartedness. They look at injustice as falling short of the standard. They look at injustice as a break of the sacred contract, that a man would be God's and would do God's work. They look at injustice and they instantly know how far a man has fallen. How far the unjust man has fallen, and how the target of his injustice is now fallen, as well. They look at both the victim and the accused the same way, knowing how so much more each was meant to be. And the godly are broken-hearted.

It's hard in a world like this one, a world where not everyone would say that God has anything to do with it. But God has everything to do with it. God is just. As such, He knows a thing or two about justice. And God's justice for us is just this - that a fallen man gets to sit in his fallenness. That he gets to feel the distance he's created in his life. That he gets to know how much less of a man he is. And that he gets to decide what to do with that. God doesn't put His foot on the fallen man's head; He doesn't hold a man down. He instead holds out His hand, ready to help a man up. 

It takes a godly man to respond like this, but this is how we must answer. There's no room in justice for our hate or our anger. There's no room in justice for shame or fear. Beating a man down is not justice. Keeping him there is not justice. Letting him feel the distance he's just created in his life, revealing his fallen nature and his heart for more, responding to him in broken-heartedness until his heart begins to break, too...that's justice. Letting him feel the distance he's created for the man who is the target of his injustice, showing him how much he's taken away from that man, teaching the accused heart to break for the hurt...that's justice. And holding out your hand to help him stand, well...that's not justice.

That's grace. 

And in God's answer to a broken world, there must be both.

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