There's a lot of talk in our world today about justice, but I'm not convinced that the world knows what the word even means. A lot of times, if you look at what the world calls "justice," it's really talking about vengeance and retaliation. It's talking sometimes about the biblical idea of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," but this teaching was never used about justice.
Justice is something entirely different.
The historical American ideal about justice is that it is blind, and that's a little bit closer, but I think contemporary culture has gotten away even from this definition. We have realized that as much as we try, we cannot be blind to certain things, so we have just stopped trying. Today, we say that justice depends on the things that we see and must account for - like hatred, race, gender, sexuality, age, disability, circumstances. And we start to say that these things necessarily change the picture that we're looking at.
So we can take two stories with the exact same circumstances, put different characters in them, and determine that one man is more guilty than the other. We can take cases with nearly-identical facts but wildly-different defendants, and we can sentence one man to life in prison and give another one just ten years. And then we explain ourselves away, highlighting all of the things that make this one different from that one, but the heart of the matter is...this isn't justice.
Justice isn't fair; it's equal.
I know that is going to blow your mind. I know that in today's world, that is a nearly-impossible statement to swallow. But God's justice...is equal.
In God's world, if you're guilty, you're guilty. Period. If you played a small part in it, you played a full part in it. If you were there when it all went down and you didn't stop it, you pay the price. Plain and simple.
When Gideon died, one of his sons - Abimelech - decided that he wanted to be leader of the people. So he recruited a bunch of the men of Shechem to help him, and together, they murdered all of his brothers (except one who hid). Just went out and slaughtered roughly 70 guys, just so that no one else could try to be the leader.
Then God comes down with His justice and destroys the entire city of Shechem. The whole thing. Burns it to the ground. He even uses Abimelech to do it by creating a war between Abimelech and a newcomer that forces Abimelech to turn on the men who helped him pull off his devilish plan.
This is justice #1 - that those who help commit the sin are as fully guilty of the sin as the one who planned it. That those who didn't stop it are just as guilty as those who carried it out.
It is also justice #2 - that when you align yourself with someone other than God, God will cause that person to turn on you and you will die by the very hand you thought would feed you.
Abimelech destroyed Shechem. The very people who helped him died by his hand.
But then, God sends Abimelech into another town, where the people gather themselves into a strong tower, climb to the top, and drop a giant stone on his head, killing him.
This is justice #3 - you don't get away with it.
This is God's justice - everyone who is involved is guilty. They are equally guilty. They have all sinned. They all pay the same price. Leaders, followers, everyone. You don't get a pass because of who you are. You don't get a pass because someone else convinced you to do it. There are not some guilty folks who get to go on living their lives and other more guilty folks who have to die. Everyone's the same guilty, everyone dies.
This is where we are. We're all guilty. We're all equally guilty. There are not some of us who are less guilty than others; there are not some of us who get a pass because of who we are. We can't claim to be scapegoated; we can't claim to be only mildly complicit. We are all sinners, and none of us is righteous. Not one. We try to convince ourselves that we're not as bad as the next guy, that we haven't done as terrible a thing as someone else, but that's not how God sees it. We're all the same guilty, and we all die.
God's justice is equal.
But thank God, so is His grace.
That's why the Cross is so amazing.