I can still taste the moment. As a freshman in the back of class, I was scoping out girls when Dr. Kuehne innocently (yet deviously) asked me in front of God and friggin’ everybody else how, exactly, I define Justice.
He was ultimately getting around to Plato and the “bakers get wheat” discussion. But I was naïve, thought Plato was Play Dough, and had no appreciation of the difficulties in simply defining terms. It was a squirmy, moist-palm, and vivid moment.
That was 15 years ago. I have since considered the subject of Justice on an almost weekly basis. And, as you may presume, I have yet to find a better answer then the stammering I passed for speech back in that classroom. But, as it goes, the definition of some things is not so much what it is, but what it is not.
You see, the problem of Justice for me was always the contention of Justice with Mercy in the nature of God. As a human, I feel constrained to define Justice and Mercy as “getting what you deserve” and “not getting what you deserve” respectively. But, I wondered, how could God give you and not give you what you deserve at the same time?
This next revelation only begs a brand new contention. It seems so simple, but God’s Justice is just different. How we define justice is overwhelmingly inferior a definition to God’s own Justice. And, as lame as it sounds to say, God’s Justice is beyond logical definition. Justice and Mercy could only coexist like this.
So where is this new contention? Well, it all comes from that darned Bible; specifically, Micah 6:8 where it says to “do justice.” Interestingly, it says to love mercy right after it. But if we are to “do” Justice and we resign that there is 1) man’s Justice and 2) God’s Justice, then which are we to do?
Of course, God’s Justice – whatever that is – is innately superior to human Justice. But since we cannot define God’s Justice, we are left to identify what God’s Justice is not. To this, there are many clues that direct us toward a consistent perspective of Justice. So, we cannot “do” Justice, but we can (in a sense) “undo” Injustice.
Martin Luther King said that Injustice anywhere is a threat to Justice everywhere. I suppose that if anything comes close, it has to be that. The philosophical Christians is for Justice, while the practical Christian is against Injustice. It’s not just semantics.
Matthew 25 makes it pretty clear we are supposed to be as preoccupied as God with helping the poor, sick, imprisoned and needy. Jesus separates wheat from chaff in verse 32 and 46 with “eternal life” for some and “eternal punishment” for others. Is pverty and hunger injustices?
Of course they are. We seem to have internal compasses screaming that poverty, hunger, suffering, rape and abuse are blatant injustices. But their opposites as wealth, full bellies, comfort and freedom are far from telltales of Justice. In fact they are sometimes causes of injustices.
Nonetheless, I believe the only way Christians can “do” God’s Justice is to “undo” man’s Injustices. God’s Justice defies definition, man’s injustices cannot be ignored.