/ Politics / Kyle Borg

Justice: Between Certainty and Doubt

Yesterday as I sat in an airport in Rhode Island I was captivated by what some have called the most momentous "he said, she said" showdown of our time. Without a doubt this comes at an important time politically and socially. There's been a widespread movement encouraging victims to give voice to the hidden suffering of sexual harassment and abuse. As the father of four little women I gratefully applaud the brave and courageous people who have confronted this wickedness that saturates the society my daughters are growing up in. Politically the stakes are high and, in an effort to be an equal offender, both sides showed themselves to be masters of circus acrobats that would almost be laughable if real people and families weren't being destroyed. As a citizen I'm embarrassed, concerned, and pessimistic.

In the course of watching the hearing one memorable comment, at least for me, came near the end from Senator Jeff Flake. He made the observation that imperfect people have to make imperfect decisions about a case where there's "as much doubt as certainty." Whether you think that accurately characterizes this particular situation, Senator Flake is right about one thing: in the pursuit of justice we often find ourselves in the uncomfortable space between certainty and doubt. The hours of statements, questions, outbursts, and media commentary remind us that acheiving justice isn't always an easy thing.

And, if I can admit it, it's this that gives me a measure of gratitude for what we have in Christianity. As the senate committee stumbled and fumbled in their confusion, I was led to be thankful for the way the wisdom of God meets us in that uncomfortable place. Namely, I was thankful for --:

God's Nature: God is just. That is to say, in the perfection of his divine nature God doesn't only exercise justice but he is just. The Psalmist teaches us to sing: "Good and upright is the LORD" (Psalm 25:8). And because God is what he is (Exodus 3:14) he can only be just. There's nothing, to speak in a simple manner, that can compromise or set aside his justice - not his love, not his mercy, not his grace for all that he is, he is. In fact, the greatest demonstration of this is the cross of Christ where, through the death of his Son, God is both the "just and the justifier" of the ungodly (Romans 3:26) and by which he can be both faithful and just to forgive us our sins (1 John 1:9).

God's Standard: We are not left to wander aimlessly in guessing what is or isn't in harmony with the justice of God. Much less are we to measure justice according to social constructs, popular opinion, or social media snap-judgments. That's because God has given us his law and his law is the very expression of his nature. In the words of the Apostle Paul, the law is "holy and righteous and good" (Romans 7:12) and it is so because God is holy and righteous and good. And that law is so simply summarized in those two great commandments to love God and to love our neighbor. That's the standard of God's justice.

God's Concern: The Bible testifies that God in his justice has a particular concern for the oppressed, weak, vulnerable, and for the otherwise helpless in this world. Again, as the Psalmist teaches us to sing: "He does not forget the cry of the afflicted" (Psalm 9:12, see also Psalm 82:3, Proverbs 31:8-9, Jeremiah 22:3, James 1:27, etc). But God also has a just concern, we might say, for the accused. This is the reason why the Bible often notes two or more witnesses: "Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established" (Deuteromony 19:15, see also John 7:51 and 1 Timothy 5:19). There is a concern that the afflicted not be forgotten, but there's also a concern with God that the accused - whoever they are - be treated justly.

God's Requirement: Because God is just we are also pursue justice: "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8). That is part of what it means to bear his image and show forth his glory. We don't get to set aside this requirement in the interest of party-line, relationships, collateral-damage, or on account of biases and prejudices. We are to deal justly with offended and offenders; accuser and accused; and the hurt and hurtful.

God's Promise: Part of our fallen misery is that in this world perfect justice will not always be found. The righteous suffer, the unrighteous prosper; the innocent are convicted, the guilty go free; and the victim is blamed, the perpetrator is unscathed. When that happens we rightly feel hurt, pain, and anger. But here is our hope. As great as the hurt and pain and anger toward injustice is, the promise of God is even greater: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:25). It is a gospel truth that the day is coming when the one who is just will judge the secrets of all men (Romans 2:16), and he will render to each according to his perfect, unchanging, spotless justice.