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October 6, 2020 | By Jay Ashbaucher

Justice is the act of making wrong things right. People have within themselves a sense of good and bad, right and wrong. They differ over what is good, or bad, or right, or wrong, nevertheless, people have a sense of right and wrong within them. They want to see their idea of good and right triumph over what they see as bad or wrong. Every day we see evidence of this thinking and behavior and the need for justice. The poor and starving of this world, for example, need a way for their basic need for food and water to be met. Justice for them is to receive help. Another example concerns those who suffer from crimes committed against them. They need those things to be stopped, and a way to be compensated for their losses. In people’s minds, bad situations need to be resolved and made right. If they are not, there is the feeling that life is not fair. People easily become angered at the injustices in their world. What, to them, is bad or wrong needs to be made good and right.

There are various ways humans use to resolve the need for justice. In most cases, people do not have the ability to bring about the justice they need, so there must be a way to make it happen. One common way to make justice happen is for a society to have a system of ethics and laws so that everyone knows what is good and bad, right and wrong. Then, they must have a way to enforce those ethics and laws to see that they are kept, and a way to deal with them when they are violated. This is why most nations have laws, and authorities with the job of seeing that they are obeyed, or properly taken care of if violated. A system of judges and law enforcement helps ensure law and order.

Another way people try to bring about justice is to think it is their right to take matters into their own hands. This can be disastrous in society, largely due to reacting out of anger and not having suitable ways to determine need or guilt. It can end up in societal chaos if people with differing methods take it on themselves to decide how to resolve issues. There must be an agreed-upon way by society to prevent this from happening. That’s why governments are established, either by whoever has the most power to take charge, or by the freedom of society’s members to vote to see what most of them want. If there is a ruler with autonomous power, citizens hope the ruler is good and wise. In voting societies, for that method to work, people must be willing to abide by the vote. If enough people are dissatisfied by how things are and are fueled by hatred or frustration, a war against the establishment becomes to them a viable option to change things and bring about what they believe to be justice. If two or more opposing sides are dissatisfied, civil war may result.

Besides government, laws, and personal power, there is another way to bring justice and peace wherever bad and wrong things are disrupting people’s lives. This other way is the way of love and forgiveness. Some know the story of Bishop Desmond Tutu, who enabled his country to avoid hatred and bloodshed through helping to orchestrate a program of love and forgiveness. There is power in this, but not without a society of people who are able to practice such love. Most people do not have the interest, nor the ability, to create a society based on love and forgiveness. They see love and forgiveness as weak and unable to control evil and wrongdoing, and they would be right, only because people’s hearts are self-centered, prideful, or wicked, making people unwilling to change, thus making justice and peace impossible without outside controls.

God tried, with his people in the Old Testament of the Bible, to have them be a nation that could live in harmony, using a justice system very unlike that of our world today. It could work if they loved God with their whole heart and loved their neighbors as themselves. These same two principals were taught by Jesus in the New Testament. Love was to be the basis of fulfilling laws that promoted human benevolence, unity, and peaceful settlement of conflicts. Unfortunately, people are unable to obey laws without an internalized motivation to do so. One of the things Jesus came to do was to change the hearts of people so that love could become their way of life. He does this by urging people’s repentance and inviting them to receive his forgiveness, at which point he performs a miracle in them by giving them his Spirit of love. This does not mean people can love perfectly all of the time, the reason being that we still carry within us a sinful nature that fights for dominance over a new spiritual nature. But, as believers learn to yield to the Spirit of Christ within them, they are able to practice justice by doing good to others, and as much as possible, on their part, to be at peace with all people.

Since few find this way of life in a world such as ours where evil is prevalent, for justice to prevail, an authoritative system of law and order is needed. Of course, this best works if those in authority are decent, fair, truthful, and righteous; for if not, people will be disappointed and disgusted with the outcomes. God is a God of love and justice. He is interested in us and has a plan to redeem his created earth, including as many people as possible. If humans cannot make life work through love, as he designed it to work, then for the good of all, and with a grieving heart, he will intervene with his justice, and those on the wrong side of him will not like it. But, he is gracious and patient with us, and instead of seeing us destroy ourselves, he is waiting for us to trust in him, and find in him hope for a better world. “O God, restore us and cause your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved” (Psalm 80:3).

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