Justice is most certainly a buzzword in Northern Ireland. We have been consumed with the idea of justice, pursuing it for my lifetime and longer.
This has only been heightened in the previous few months with Richard Haass’ challenge to deal with the past and the more recent controversy over the ‘On The Run’ letters distributed by the British government in Westminster.
Time and time again, in Northern Ireland, it seems those who deserve to be brought to justice escape it, and those who deserve justice for what they, and/or their relatives, have suffered are denied it. Repeatedly, it seems, justice is not only blind but mute and lame to the evils that befall the innocent.
This has been the case with reduced prison sentences as a result of The Belfast Agreement in 1998, the Attorney General for Northern Ireland’s call for a line to be drawn, Haass’ impossible task of dealing with the past in just six months and most recently the ‘On The Run’ letters fiasco.
That Christians are interested in this pursuit of justice is only natural. After all we are the children of the just judge (Gen. 18:25), and this just judge has been explicit in calling us to follow in his footsteps by likewise executing justice (Micah 6:8). Indeed, the men of faith from Hebrews 11 ‘enforced justice’ by their faith (v. 33 ESV). Therefore, it cannot be denied (and to be honest I don’t think it really is), there is a call for Christians to pursue justice.
However, the reality is that we live in a fallen and broken world which is groaning under the weight of sin (Rom. 8:22). Due to the sin that pervades our world justice is not always executed. That has been evident from the above examples from the very recent past in Northern Ireland.
But, in the midst of this injustice there is comfort.
The comfort is that God will execute perfect justice in the end. There are a plethora of verses which tell us this, in addition to many narratives and themes which illustrate God’s justice throughout Scripture. So I will refrain from referencing them all and encourage you to do so yourself some time.
Yet, I will take time to offer one example which is very clear. We are told twice at the end of Ecclesiastes God will bring every deed into judgement (11:9; 12:14). Above we made reference to Genesis 18:25, this verse tells us that God is the judge of all the earth. When we add to this the truth that God sees all that takes place (Heb. 4:13) we find the judge of the entire world sees all that takes place. Therefore, nothing will be missed when he executes his judgement.
There will be people who avoid justice here on earth – but eternity holds a justice which is infinitely more fitting than anything we can execute here and now.
This is the comfort in injustice – God will bring every deed into judgement in the end.
Lest we become self-righteous about this, it is necessary to remind ourselves that this judgement will involve every human being – perpetrator and victim alike (and all of us are perpetrators to some extent). And so we turn our gaze to the cross, because here we see perfect justice executed and yet much grace extended.
For those of us who are Christians a contemplation of God’s perfect justice, judgement of every deed and correction of all injustice in the end should evoke praise in our hearts. Praise of Jesus because he took the punishment our sin required so that in justice we could be pronounced innocent. We have perpetrated great sin both against God and against others, but we find forgiveness in Jesus.
The offer of forgiveness also stands for those who have escaped justice here and now, because Jesus’ sacrifice was enough for their sin too. Isn’t this unjust though? No, because their sin has been punished in Jesus that they too may enjoy forgiveness.
So as we look at the injustice that surrounds us what should we do?
- Contemplate the comfort of God’s perfect justice executed in its fullness at the end of time.
- Remember that we are only justly proclaimed innocent because of Jesus bearing our punishment.
- Pray that the Holy Spirit would use the conscience of those who escape justice here to drive them to repentance in Jesus.