We hear much about injustice today. It seems like, whatever the issue is, someone thinks the outcome is unjust. A high profile court case does not go the way certain people want it to go, so they hit the streets demanding justice. A settlement is reached in a labor dispute and both sides claim they have been wronged in some way. Legislation is passed and the opposition claims that it is unfair and unjust.
It is telling that everyone wants justice when they feel it will benefit them, but they are not so eager for justice when they are on the negative side of the equation. Few people want justice when they are stopped for speeding and are facing a traffic ticket. Few people demand justice when they have messed up at work. Instead, they plead for a second chance. Few people seek justice when they illegally download a movie or music from the internet. The truth is that if we lived in a world of strict, unbending justice, we would all be in big trouble.
C.S. Lewis highlighted this in his book The Great Divorce. In this fanciful story, people are given the opportunity to take a bus ride from hell to the outskirts of heaven. When they arrive, each one is met by a particular person sent to welcome them. In one of these encounters, a passenger from hell meets a murderer who had repented and been forgiven, gaining access to heaven. This person thought that was very unfair. He began to loudly complain.
“Who’s going on? I’m not arguing. I’m just telling you the sort of chap I was, see? I’m asking for nothing but my rights. You may think you can put me down because you’re all dressed up like that (which you weren't when you worked under me) and I’m only a poor man. But I got to have my rights same as you, see?”
“Oh no. It’s not so bad as that. I haven’t got my rights, or I should not be here. You will not get your's either. You’ll get something far better.” (The Great Divorce pg 33-34)
Lewis’ point is that none of us receive what we deserve. The God of ultimate justice chooses to be unjust by forgiving our sins and redeeming our lives. Paul puts it this way in Romans 5:6-8. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
The Psalmist captures the essence of God’s injustice toward us in Psalm 103. The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children-- with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.
Aren't you thankful that God is merciful and not a God of blind justice? Who of us could stand in His presence, if He were not merciful? So as we look upon others, maybe we should withhold our judgment. Jesus did.
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13 (NIV)