When we talk about justice, true justice, as we have been doing this week, we have to go back to a principle that seems fairly straightforward but...is it really?
Is justice really blind?
We want justice to be blind. We want to believe that the same rules apply to everyone, even though we know that they don't. And sometimes, we're the first ones to advocate for them not to.
Take the case that we have right now centering around an Olympic-caliber athlete who has every athletic ability to succeed on the international stage and who has worked very hard to get where she is. After competing, winning, and qualifying to race in Tokyo, she tested positive for a banned substance - and she doesn't deny it. (By the way, it's awesome to see someone owning her mistake and accepting the consequences for a change.)
But there's a huge public outcry about how we ought to bend the rules for her, about how this particular instance shouldn't keep her from this moment that she's worked so hard for and that she's ready for. We have heard a story about the circumstances surrounding this substance, and it pangs against something in our human heart and all of a sudden, we don't want things to be 'fair.' It seems unjust to hold her accountable to the rules.
What if, though, you're one of the other dozens of athletes who have followed the rules? Is it just to tell you that you will lose your spot to someone who didn't?
"But she's the best!" So? She broke the rules. Justice is blind...isn't it?
What's more troubling than our goodwill toward those for whom we feel some measure of compassion or empathy is what happens on the other end of this spectrum - when we believe justice should be exacted more harshly based on the circumstances.
This was true certainly throughout a dark period of racism in our history - when a black man was held more accountable for raping a white woman than a white man was for raping a black woman. As soon as you said, "Well, he's black," that was the end of the story. "Justice" came down hard like a hammer and pulled that man up by his neck, exacted with force because of the color of his skin. He's black, so he must be guilty.
We see the same thing happening right now when police officers are put on trial. He's a cop, so he must pay. It's the same thing I was talking about a couple of days ago - when someone becomes the banner for everyone and everything like him or her, when one person has to pay the price for the brokenness of a system or the perversion of a societal dynamic. A bulk of our culture is angry with police officers right now, so put a police officer on trial and...is justice blind? Do we even want it to be blind?
We are a people who say that we want justice, as a principle, to be blind, but in practice, the truth is that we want no such thing. We sometimes even say that maybe God's justice isn't blind. Maybe God wants us to be more gracious to the poor person, to the sinner, to the fallen and that God wants us to be more harsh with those who represent something more in our society, like the rapist, the murderer, the trafficker.
But here's the thing, and take this for what it's worth: I don't think 'blind' is the way that justice should be, nor do I believe that God wants us to meter our justice according to our tastes or preferences or the way the cultural winds are blowing. I think that the heart of justice, true justice, is graciousness.
You know what? Hold that thought. It's going to take more space than I have for today - I don't want to lose you on this. So stay tuned tomorrow and we'll wrap this up by talking about justice and grace.
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