A Unique View of Justice
TRIGGER WARNING: There will be discussion of several controversial topics within this blog entry.
I never set out to harm anyone when I write but I also won’t avoid a discussion just because it involves sensitive issues. Sometimes I choose to take a stand on things I consider important. That always runs the risk of offending or alienating people.
If this blog entry offends you in any way, I apologize. Please consider it “food for thought” and not some kind of personal attack.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of legal justice is “the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments.” The laws within a country are generally designed to protect its citizens and maintain some kind of order.
But there are plenty of examples throughout history of laws that were enforced which were clearly unjust. In the United States (US) alone, slavery was legal until 1865. Women were not allowed to vote until 1920. Interracial marriage was illegal in many states until 1967. Laws were made to protect politicians and businesses from their own unethical practices or to prevent specific ethnic groups from voting. And these are just a few examples.
Even now, there are laws which many consider unjust or worse. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010 declared that corporations had the same rights as people. Despite common sense making it clear that a business is not a person, the US Supreme Court’s majority interpreted existing laws, court cases and the US Constitution in such a way as to determine that corporations somehow were entitled to the same rights as people. This Supreme Court ruling was very controversial and had widespread political repercussions still in effect today.
In early 2019, several US states have made laws allowing abortion up until the date of birth. Many people (myself included) consider abortion murder. Regardless of what term one gives to the life within the womb, what medical conditions it may or may not have or under what circumstances that life was conceived, it is life. That does not condone the way it was conceived, especially if by rape or incest; it just acknowledges what is growing in the womb as life. Otherwise, it would not have to be killed in the abortion process.
Numerous medical professionals have confirmed that in a pregnancy past twenty-four weeks, the life growing within a woman could be delivered naturally or through C-section. In those instances, that baby would stand a reasonable chance of survival, given modern medical capabilities and techniques.
There are many questions and controversies regarding what happens to “unwanted” children after their birth including assistance in their care, the costs of foster care/adoption and more. These are all legitimate areas of concern. Addressing them would require changes to existing laws.
Statues of “Lady Justice” are said to be the ideal embodiment of legal justice. Based on the Roman goddess Lustitia, they are depicted as a blindfolded woman holding a sword in one hand and a set of scales in the other. She is supposed to be blind. This represents being impartial and objective, unswayed by anything but truth. The sword represents the power, threat and finality of the law.
However, reality is different than the ideal. People make laws and people are flawed. They have biases and can be swayed by the opinions or influence of others. People can be bribed, seduced or blackmailed. People can be the wrong kind of blind: willfully ignorant.
According to Wikipedia, “Social justice is a concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society. This is measured by the explicit and tacit terms for the distribution of wealth, opportunities for personal activity, and social privileges. In Western as well as in older Asian cultures, the concept of social justice has often referred to the process of ensuring that individuals fulfill their societal roles and receive what was their due from society. In the current global grassroots movements for social justice, the emphasis has been on the breaking of barriers for social mobility, the creation of safety nets and economic justice.”
“Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.” - Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
There have been good forms of social justice, such as the Civil Rights movement. In particular, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s approach of non-violent protests garnered substantial support and was a great example to the world. Other calls for change over the decades have varied in approach, methods and success.
I participated in a form of social justice when I helped form the International Size Acceptance Association (ISAA) and ran it for eighteen years as its Director. We put together multiple online campaigns to educate the public about weight-related issues such as self-esteem, fitness at every size, healthy food choices and how to deal with weight-related biases and discrimination. We used the website, newsletters, e-zines, podcasts, local meetings and a few conventions to generate interest about these topics. I myself and several other representatives of ISAA were interviewed by a host of media at various times between 1997 and 2015, including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, TIME, Wall Street Journal Radio, NPR, Japan’s Yomiuri Simbun newspaper and many others. We saw gradual improvements in public perception and things like fat-shaming have become unpopular. There is now more focus on healthy living and fitness at any size than at any time before.
There have also been more destructive forms of social justice. People have done dangerous things such as blocking traffic, placing spikes in trees (which resulted in deaths), threatening people, beating people, looting, burning buildings, cars and other property. These are methods which inspire terror not change.
The problems that can arise with social justice stem from the same root as those for legal justice. Social justice basically tells people “together, we can make a difference if we try hard enough and are patient and persistent enough.” Ideally, that is fine. But in reality, social justice depends on people. And people are inherently flawed. They can misjudge, assume and make mistakes. Its leaders can be well-meaning but ultimately wrong. Or they can have the right idea and use very unethical or even deadly means to achieve their goals.
God is a spirit. He created humans the same as He made all of Creation.
Isaiah 55: 6 - 11 (KJV) reads “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”
God is holy. That doesn’t mean God is just good and loving. He is, but He also gives us love that we have done nothing to deserve (also called “grace”) and much mercy. He is patient.
2 Peter 3: 8 - 9 (KJV) reads “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
God is the ultimate judge. His judgments are holy, righteous and pure. They are not swayed.
People often say “But how could a just and loving God allow terrible things to happen to good, innocent people?” God’s son, Jesus Christ, answered this:
Luke 13: 1 - 4 (KJV) reads “There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
In the beginning, God made Adam and Eve as perfect humans with free will. Using that free will, Adam and Eve disobeyed God and committed the first sins. They became sinners. Their children and every generation since were born with the capacity and desire to sin. But God determined people who would be prophets, judges, kings, pastors and teachers throughout what is known as the Old Testament and sent them to help the Jews, the chosen people of God. Those prophets foretold of a savior or Messiah who would come. Christians (myself included) believe that Jesus Christ was that Messiah.
What does that have to do with God’s Justice? Everything. It was God’s Justice that made it possible for sinful man to be reconciled with Him. Jesus’ sacrifice was extraordinary. He took the penalty for all the sins of every man and woman who had ever lived or would yet be born upon himself and died. Then God raised Jesus from the dead and Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to the world, offering hope, peace and a new relationship with God through that Holy Spirit and Him (Jesus).
Why? How is this “justice?” I am not a pastor but I am a Christian. I can only share what I’ve learned and experienced.
In 1996, when I was in an emergency clinic, severely dehydrated and contemplating whether I’d survive the day, I realized one very important thing: I knew that if I died that afternoon, I would not go to Heaven. On an instinctive level, I knew that. In my mind’s eye, I could see and sense the lonely, cold abyss of Hell.
People imagine Hell as being ablaze and the Bible speaks of fire and brimstone, a lake of fire. I believe in all of that. Nevertheless, imagine a black hole in your soul threatening to suck you into it. That’s what I perceived: a terrible lonely void I’d describe as cold and foreboding. I had no idea what lay within and I didn’t want to know.
It was scary enough that in my mind, I called out to God and begged for my life. I told Him “Lord, if you spare my life today, I’ll go and give my life to you tomorrow!” The Lord let me live that day and the next day was a Sunday. I went and fulfilled my promise.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is John 3:16 (KJV), in which Jesus said “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
In John 3: 17 - 21 (KJV), Jesus goes on to say “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”
As I stated before, God is the ultimate Judge. Like the threat implied with the sword of Lady Justice, God has a wrath. But He has given us a way to escape that wrath and live in peace with Him. In the future, God -- through His Son Jesus Christ -- will judge the whole world. This is mentioned throughout the Bible.
In Matthew 12: 22 - 37 (KJV), Jesus referenced it when speaking to the Pharisees: “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”
How does God allow evil in the world? He gave people free will. They can -- and do -- choose to do evil. To paraphase the late Reverend Billy Graham, people ask if God has abandoned them. But He hasn’t abandoned people; they have abandoned Him.
God wants people to seek Him through His Son Jesus Christ.
In John 14: 6 - 7 (KJV), “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.“
I can only speak for myself but I’ll put my trust in God’s Justice over people’s justice any day.
Thanks for reading this.
2/14/2019 06:30:42 pm
Thank you, Joanna!
7/10/2022 03:20:17 am
Great readinng this
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About the author
Allen Steadham is a nondenominational Christian. Happily interracially married since 1995 and the proud father of two sons and a daughter. He and his wife have been in the same Christian band since 1997. He plays electric bass, she plays strings, they both sing. It's all good.
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