Saturday, May 2, 2015

Think about this: What is Just?

"Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." - Philippians 4:8, ESV

Of all the adjectives in this verse, this one has been the most challenging for me to think of. In this world, it is much easier to point out injustice than it is to find true justice, isn't it? There are plenty of blogs and news reports and protest demonstrations that very loudly think about the unjust things around us.

I've been thinking about it a lot recently, because my mom and I love watching the TV show, "Blue Bloods," a story about an Irish-Catholic family in New York City - the father is the police commissioner, one son is a homicide detective, another son is a police officer, and the daughter is an assistant district attorney... so they all work in their specialty to try to accomplish the same goal: justice. But it's a hard reality to pin down, and despite their best efforts, they constantly face obstacles like politics, unreliability, revenge, and the limits of the law.

We might all say that we want justice - the good rewarded, the bad punished. But when issues become personal, justice feels like a question mark that leads to no right and good answer, and we squirm under the weight of responsibility in deciding what is just. Consider the symbol we often associate with justice: an expressionless, blind-folded figure, with a sword in one hand and a pair of scales in the other. Justice is a terrifying thing... with no room for mercy, compassion, or grace.

I tried to think of examples in the Bible of God's justice... and it's difficult for me. Not that God isn't just - I absolutely know that He is - but even in reading the stories, I can't understand his justice. When I read about wars and loss and curses and captivity and pain, I'm tempted to question God's justice. But then I remember that blind-folded statue, and I remember the terrible truth of Romans 3:23 (and the whole of chapter 3, at that), and realize that if true justice was served, that sword in her hand would cut down every single one of us without hesitation or selection. We are, by nature, objects of wrath. In light of this, the Old Testament becomes a surprisingly heart-wrenching picture of the mercy of God! 

But then... where is the justice of God? Many prophets asked this question, and God told them to wait, be patient, because it will come. The scales will tip and the sword will fall. The only thing that will tip those scales in our favor is the saving blood of Jesus Christ, and the only shield that will protect us from that sword is our faith in Him. He is the defining edge of right and wrong. The story of true and ultimate justice comes in the end - Revelation 20-21 - when every evil will be destroyed and everything will be made right. 

This realization came to me the other day as I listened to the song "The Reckoning," by Andrew Peterson. As one who has been rescued and redeemed, I praise God for his mercy and patience - for holding back his righteous wrath for as long as he has... and I worship him for his power and justice, which he has promised one day to reveal in all his glory. 

Whatever is just... think about these things.

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