Today’s devotional: how does the Bible define “justice”?

Justice has been on my mind this morning since I read about the conviction of Khmer Rouge torturer/executioner Kaing Guek Eav. Is a 19-year prison sentence “just”? Does the extent of his crimes merit a harsher sentence, or should his regret and guilty plea earn him a lighter one?

Those are questions that will be much discussed in Cambodia over the next few months, you can be sure. But today’s Words of Hope devotional, about the Christian understanding of justice, seems timely. What does justice look like through the Bible’s eyes, and should a Christian’s definition of justice differ from a non-Christian’s?

There is a great debate in legal and philosophical circles about the nature of justice. The ancients defined justice as giving others their due. Modern theories of justice often talk about fairness and equality.

Micah 6:8 says, “And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” God calls us to be agents of his justice on earth. But doing this requires deep, prayerful humility. Christian justice has no place for vengeance, self-righteousness, or “getting even.” Instead, justice requires us to seek the good of others, even those who have wronged us. And though that may still require us to take legal action against wrong-doing, we are called to do it in a spirit of love and mercy.

Read the full devotional at Words of Hope.

This quiet and humble approach is a far cry from the “justice” regularly presented in our popular entertainment and in the day-to-day news cycle. What do you think? Does your Christian concept of justice ever conflict with your instincts, and if so, how do you resolve that tension?

7 Responses to “Today’s devotional: how does the Bible define “justice”?”

  • vic says:

    Justice for me is really giving what is due to a person. When a person does bad, he is due for punishment…however he is also due for mercy and forgiveness. On the other hand, when a person does good, he is due for reward and blessings…however he is also due of what he is worth of – that is grace.

  • Sean Scott says:

    There is a wide difference between regret and repentance. It is possible to be forgiving to a person who has truly repented. Many who do wrong later regret what their action(s) but still do not repent and continue to do wrong. They do not seek Jesus for His help in making the needed changes and healing the broken person they have become.

    We can recognize, too, that hurt people are who hurt people. Almost everyone who sins does so knowing they are doing something wrong but the character of the person is always incomplete and broken. We live in a broken world that is stained by the curse of sin, but not everybody recognizes that. In that light, it is still possible to hate the sin and love the sinner.

    Our society has laws and punishments for their violations. We can still seek human justice while being forgiving Christians of the person who truly seeks the Lord and repents. We can be loving towards the sinner who is sentenced for crimes and must be made to serve time to society to make things just, even if they do not necessarily repent, because we are commanded to love others as we love ourselves

  • Sean Scott says:

    Additionally, and I know I am as guilty of this as anyone else, in all situations of justice and forgiveness we simply need to let God be God. There is much we do not understand and are not meant to be dealing with. Lean on Jesus and let Him lead. Put your faith into the Lord and trust that He is, He is good, and He will not steer you wrong.

  • nicole says:

    It is not for me to judge someone. This can be very dangerous for some. God warns us to not judge less we be judged. This subject scares me. I believe in true justice and not revenge. I think God judges us with the same standards that we judge others. It is scary to think of how harshly Ive judged people based on very little facts. I don’t envy those that decide the fate of others. Nor do I envy those that let “justice” feel more like revenge and are consumed by it and thier pain. Lord I pray you forgive my judgemental ways and I pray you don’t judge me so harshly.

  • Justice ceases to be when the punishment does not fit the crime. The Old Testament principle of an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is a principle of just compensation: a tooth does not have the value of an eye, so it’s sort of a “cap” on liability. Compensatory more than punitive damages.

    When a person violates another human being even to the point of murder, the state is divinely authorized to take the murderer’s life. This is not as much vengeance for the decedant or his family as much as it is for the glory of God. The murderer committed a capital act by attacking and assaulting the image of God and usurping the place of God (in juxtaposition with Satan), Who Himself is the only giver of life.

    Thus it is not contradictory for one to be pro-life (anti-abortion)as well as in favor of the death penalty. The abortionist is likewise assaulting the image of God indelibly stamped upon the unborn.

    Thus, justice demands my eternal punishment: the holiness of God demands it. BUT, God who is rich in mercy sent His Son, born of a virgin — He had dwelt from eternity past so that having no earthly father a new “sinner” did not come into existence — to live a sinless life, die a perfect, acceptable, vicarious death, and was raised from the dead. His resurrection being PROOF POSITIVE that the justice of God was satisfied.

    So, either I must accept the work of Christ by faith alone, or offer my own sacrifice that will satisfy God’s justice. Unfortunately, the only “sacrifice” a person can offer that will satisfy God’s Justice is to spend eternity in Hell.

    “Thanks be to God for His unsearchable Gift”

  • Jason says:

    Justice needs to be backed up with understanding and endurance. Only then can one truly believe and follow the Christian concept of justice. Otherwise when one is affected on a personal level due to what is perceived as someone else’s wrongdoings, values like humility and kindness are often dispensed with.

  • Graham Munsell says:

    Christian Justice has to do with me and how I react to the real and preceived wrongs visited on me. Comunity is another “entity”. Everyone in our community of The United States of America or Ohio or Cincinnati do not hold the same values and this is the problem when we try to look to our communities(Christian)values to maintain social order in the larger diverse community. As menbers of a community we have to be able to expect certain behavior from everone. If we couldn’t, we wouldn’t be able to interact and there would be no community. If I couldn’t depend, with a high degree of certainty, that I wouldn’t be shot if I opened my door and took a walk, I wouldn’t be in any hurry to open my door and interact with the community. Theirfor,the larger community must have laws to define social behavior and when they are transgressed the offender must be removed from the community. Jail Death