Do we really want justice?

During a recent trip to Northampton I was behind a small station wagon whose rear end was plastered with colorful bumper stickers.  One in particular caught my eye: Sow justice; reap security.   I glanced at the woman driving the car.  The white-haired woman in her 70’s looked as though she would be right at home in the counter-cultural mecca of Northampton.  This city of about 29,000 has been rated by Epodunk as the most politically liberal medium-sized city in the country, so it isn’t unusual to get a lesson in civics just by driving through town.  But this bumper sticker got me thinking.

Justice.  Inherent in the word is the idea of right conduct, fair treatment, as well as the administration of punishment for wrong behavior.

But how does one go about ‘sowing justice’?  And if it is sown, how does that translate into a causative agent for security?  Was the maker of that bumper sticker  referring to economic security?  Peace of mind?  Hope for the future?  I don’t know the intent behind the words, but they did cause me to stop and consider: do I really want justice?

Our court system has the challenging job of providing justice for victims of crime.  This is right and good as God has set up governments that ‘we may lead peaceful and quiet lives.’   But on a personal level, in relationships, it seems to me that justice is the last thing most of us should really desire.  In some abstract sense we want justice because we think if we have been wronged, the serving of justice will bring a sense of satisfaction, the pleasure of being ‘right’ in the eyes of others, or even perhaps a change in circumstances.  But is this necessarily true?  If all the details of a life are examined, is there a guarantee of vindication?

King David was a man who loved God.  He valued God’s words more than gold and said there was great reward in keeping God’s commands.  But even this giant of the faith said, “Who can discern their own errors?   Forgive my hidden faults.”  David understood himself well.  He realized that there were flaws buried so deep within, that they were potentially hidden even from him. There was no confident self-righteousness in David, but rather a humble awareness of his propensity to sin.

We tend to cry out for justice when we have been wronged;  when we are the offender, we prefer mercy.  How different our relationships might be if, instead of demanding justice, we cultivate the habit of sowing mercy.

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.   James 2:12-13


7 thoughts on “Do we really want justice?

  1. I wonder what the little old lady would’ve thought of this entry? Many bumper stickers are curious….
    I agree with you Jill, sowing mercy is the better ideology. Isn’t that just what Jesus did? Mercy exuded from His actions and His words.

  2. I have seen this slogan before, and the context was advocating for justice for those who do not advocate well for themselves—the disenfrancised, children—-for in the end, when we advocate for justice, in the Biblical sense, we help those whom God loves every bit as much as those of us who are more privileged to experience a greater sense of security. Too often we do not care enough about justice for others—only for ourselves. And when some are denied the “privilege” of justice to the degree that other’s experience it, we are all impoverished. Those who are chronically denied justice may be filled with bitterness and anger, and certainly that does not lend itself to a secure society. Those are my thoughts, but I love your thoughts around the issue of justice vs. mercy—or grace. Ultimately, we all long for God’s grace to be experienced, in our lives, and in the lives of others.

  3. Bev,
    Thanks for your thoughts on the meaning of the bumping sticker. I agree that our judicial system, as well as individual citizens, have often failed those who are truly disenfranchised. It is a sad
    commentary on our society. I continue to wrrestle with the Church’s role in social justice. On the one hand, I think we need to do more as members of the Body of Christ, but on the other hand, I fear the heart of the gospel will become diluted as has happened in the past.

    I love the song, Hosanna. The second verse says:
    I see a generation
    Rising up to take the place
    With selfless faith, with selfless faith
    I see a near revival
    Stirring as we pray and seek
    We’re on our knees, we’re on our knees

    I love the passion in the generation that is rising up, and their commitment to social justice. By God’s grace, they may be the generation that successfully blends the heart of the gospel with a passion for justice as they’re ‘on their knees’.

    But in the meantime, in my little sphere of influence, I want to grow in the demonstration of compassion and mercy, and be ever more aware of the mercy God shows me day by day.

    It is always so nice to hear from you!

  4. This is such a good and right thought…and fact. But..I must say…in some circumstances, I wonder if we as humans are really able to get to a place of showing consistant mercy and forgiveness to some who betray us and our loved ones ??..and keep on betraying?..this thought haunts it has been my biggest cross to bear in the last 6 years…I can only continue to fall back on our Lords mercy as I go up and down on my efforts to show mercy and forgiveness…I can only hope in The end of my sanctification process…once and for all…to get off this roller coaster ride of true mercy and forgiveness…at least in some cases. Thanks for getting me thinking ..and once again realizing, with out Jesus…we are hopeless!…

  5. I thank God that he showers me with grace (getting things I don’t deserve) and mercy (not getting what I deserve)! Only God can do it perfectly. Thanks for getting me thinking, too, Jill.

  6. Hi Jill,

    Just a short reply: I thank God He is full of grace and mercy along with justice and that Jesus loved me enough to pay for MY SINS!


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