There is no justice, but there is forgiveness.
As a kind of oldest child in the story of the prodigal son, I tend to keep track of things. I have an instinct towards justice, where right is rewarded and wrong is punished. I harken it back to my childhood, where I (as the oldest child) was often the enforcer. Nowadays I wonder if I would have been happier to have made a career as a judge.
And yet, can any judge really be satisfied in this world? Where, despite the best intentions and efforts, just as often as the righteous flourish, so do the wicked.
I have seen the good man thrive and the bad man perish. But I have also seen the righteous man perish and the immoral man thrive. Some are able to reconcile this reality with an eternal perspective, where God plays the ultimate judge and we need not trouble ourselves with wondering who gets what. That gives some consolation, but honestly for me, not much.
When I say there is no justice, that is of course an exaggeration. Sometimes there is justice, but often not. And yet I make the claim to set our expectation. In other words, I might have just as easily said that, there is no guarantee of justice.
For certain folks like me, knowing that the world does not guarantee justice makes it at times a scary place. Sadly, I have little assurance of safety, except to try to trust God.
…but there is forgiveness
If I try to keep track of my goodness or badness, then all I can really do with that is to expect good to come to me (when I am good) or to expect to be punished when I am bad. That worldview can be excellent for religion, but not so good for true Christianity. The later is based on a relationship with God, as opposed to a list of do’s and don’ts.
Instead of dividing my life into “being good and bad,” I can just recognize that my sometimes-badness means I am essentially a bad person. That is, even 10 drops of black paint in a jar of white, will turn it grey. This is the idea that we are all sinners and are in need of being rescued or saved.
Divine forgiveness is extended to all people who will receive it through repentance in Jesus. And on top of that, there is also self-forgiveness and human-to-human forgiveness to factor into our perspectives.
Despite the title of this article, forgiveness is not the opposite of justice. Rather, it is a kind-of better replacement.
When we are divinely forgiven, then we don’t care about keeping track of our goods and bads. We are content in being forgiven ourselves. Nor do we worry about others’. And when we are healthy, we can extend that same forgiveness to others. (I say “healthy” since I am not so good at doing this. At least once a week I get really, really hurt and have a very hard time forgiving. It might take me days, weeks or months to do so. But when I am ready, I always try to remember to forgive so as not to hold a grudge.)
The person who complains that there is no justice in the world, sees oneself as being “gooder” than others. And the message to that person is yes, there is no justice.
But when you realize that even a little sin makes you just as bad as the worst person, then suddenly you don’t crave justice in the same way. So who cares that there is no justice. In fact, you might be thankful that there is no justice, since you could have wound up on the wrong side of it. But through repentance, you can be forgiven and learn to forgive others.
Thankfully there is no justice, but there is forgiveness.
The Bible has a sentence that captures this idea: Mercy triumphs over judgement. (James 2:13)
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