The Foundation of Justice For All
By Evelyn Reams | April 1, 2021 | Return to Blog
On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was fatally shot at a hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. Four years earlier, he had received a Nobel Peace Prize for his prominent role in the civil rights movement. The shadow of his assassination still falls on its fifty-third anniversary this Easter Sunday. As we pause in reflection, we can become discouraged by the injustice seen on that day and throughout human history. Some struggle inwardly, while others look for someone on which to cast the blame. Many authors have compared discernment of right and wrong with distinguishing between counterfeit and genuine currency. They explain that federal agents must memorize every detail of real currency in order to detect the false bills. In other words, knowledge of the truth can help us sift through the many messages being spoken in our world today.
What is the foundation of true justice for all? How can we discern what to do about injustice? A closer look at Scripture helps us find answers as we navigate a broken world. We can take heart, because Jesus has overcome darkness with light. This Easter Sunday is a wonderful time to consider God’s view of justice for all in light of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
An Eternally Just God
"I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” Jer 9:24
The ultimate foundation of Biblical justice is found in the nature of God. He is eternal and does not change (1). At the end of time, He will judge all people, as stated in Ecclesiastes 3:17 and throughout the Bible. God is often described as a righteous judge, but it can be difficult to see this part of his nature as compatible with his abounding love for the world. How can the merciful God of John 3:16 execute judgement for the world’s many sins? To answer this, we must look more deeply into Jesus’ life as foretold and fulfilled in his death and resurrection.
How Jesus Established Justice
The Book of Isaiah is full of prophesies about the Messiah’s coming. Among these are many passages like this one describing his role as a bringer of justice.
"Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law." Is 42:1-9
During his time on earth, Christ fulfilled the words spoken about him by Isaiah and the other prophets. As Isaiah wrote, Jesus did not grow discouraged or ascend into heaven without first establishing justice. He did this by willingly accepting a criminal’s death though he was without sin. God’s righteous wrath was unleashed as Jesus bore the ultimate punishment, greater even than the combined weight of the sins of all humanity: separation from God’s love and fellowship. When Jesus said “it is finished,” He took the penalty that was ours and satisfied the wrath of God (2).
Before Jesus came, people still had the opportunity to be redeemed by placing their faith in God (3). But his gift on the cross displayed God’s love for the world in a new way. The hope of salvation was joined by a new promise: that the Holy Spirit would dwell in the hearts of those who put their faith in Jesus (4). The gift which we celebrate at Easter should spur us on to new hope in light of the resurrection. God does not want anyone to perish, but all to come to repentance and find that hope in a relationship with Him.
How Should We Respond?
Although the act of executing judgement is not in our hands but in God’s, each of us still holds a vital responsibility. In light of God’s holiness, Jesus’ sacrifice, and the Spirit’s guidance, we must strive to act justly towards our fellow humans.
"The LORD detests double standards; he is not pleased by dishonest scales. And, To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice." Proverbs 20:23 and 21:3
The Old Testament contains many calls to avoid unfairness towards others. In Isaiah, those who practice injustice are called “writers who keep writing oppression,” and they are told that judgement will come for their actions (Isaiah 10:1-4). But our duty goes beyond refusing to oppress others. If we have been redeemed from the wages of sin by God, we are called to actively establish justice on behalf of those in trouble (5). Jesus set the ultimate example of showing love to his enemies, and asks each of us to do the same. We are challenged not only to “turn the other cheek” in the face of injustice, but also to pray for the very people who have done us wrong (6).
Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it completely. Proverbs 28:5
In a world under the sway of sin, evil will always be present. We can take heart because on the first Easter morning nearly two thousand years ago, Jesus established a new definition of justice for all. If you are already walking in fellowship with Jesus, this season may spark conversations about justice, grace, and what Jesus is doing in your life. If you have never truly received the gift of salvation, this Easter could be the perfect opportunity (7). By overcoming the world, Jesus has enabled us to fight evil by becoming more like him. Only in daily taking up our crosses to follow him will our mission become clear: to seek justice for all in both our attitudes and actions.
(1) Malachi 3:6
(2) John 19:30
(3) Romans 4:3
(4) Romans 8:11
(5) Romans 6:23, Proverbs 31:9, Micah 6:8)
(6) Matthew 5:38-39, Luke 6:27-28