But the Lord of hosts is exalted by justice,
And the Holy God shows himself holy by righteousness.
- Isaiah 5:16
What is justice, anyway? And who gets to decide when justice is served correctly?
According to Merriam-Webster, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/justice, justice is “the process or result of using laws to fairly judge and punish crimes and criminals.”
That’s assuming the laws are just, and are applied fairly.
Another definition of justice, according to the same web site, is “a title for a judge (such as a judge of the U.S. Supreme Court).”
A Supreme Court justice.
The next U.S. president possibly could appoint three or four U.S. Supreme Court justices, whose job is to interpret the laws already on the books. Because different people interpret the same laws differently, this is a big deal.
Indeed, in the eyes of some voters, this is a major reason why they will vote for a certain candidate – not even because of the candidate’s views on family issues, immigration or foreign policy, but who would he or she appoint to the Supreme Court?
Is all justice arbitrary, then? Does it all depend on politics?
To take it a step further, is there such a thing as right and wrong?
For all people in all cultures, past present and future, rich and poor, American and Iranian: Do right and wrong exist?
Okay, maybe that’s a little much. How about in the United States: Does right and wrong exist? For black, white and Hispanic, wealthy and destitute, urban and rural, Republican and Democrat?
Is justice even possible? Who gets to decide?
Is marijuana possession a crime? Depends who you ask. In some jurisdictions, yes; in others, no.
If I drive 5 mph over the speed limit, am I breaking the law? How about 10 mph over the limit?
Do we get to pick and choose which laws we want to follow?
If I don’t like a particular law, can I just ignore it? This country allows protests and campaigns to change laws, but are we supposed to keep the laws in the meantime?
What is justice? And who wins when justice is served correctly?
Many people don’t like the Ten Commandments posted on courthouse doors, because of their origin. It doesn’t matter what the Ten Commandments are. Do not steal, do not murder, do not covet things that aren’t yours, do not commit adultery … These things all have consequences, whether a courtroom judge applies the justice or not.
And many of the Ten Commandments are written into U.S. law. For good reasons.
The prophet Isaiah wrote the verse I quoted at the start of this blog about 2,700 years ago. Who wins when justice is served correctly? “The Lord of hosts,” according to Isaiah.
Why did he write that?
Because the Lord of hosts understands true justice, in ways that no man or woman does. Why can I say that? The Lord of hosts created us; He created our hearts. He knows us in our innermost being. He knows our motive. He understands guilt and innocence better than we ever will.
We work hard in our justice system to get it right, and hopefully we do get it right – at least most of the time.
Murder or self-defense? The split-second decision to shoot changes not just the life of the victim, but the lives of the victim’s family, friends, neighbors, etc. … and the life of the shooter as well.
How do we determine motive?
As a nation, are we willing to accept a judge and/or jury’s verdict? Or is justice served only when we get our way, when we decide for the judge and jury what right and wrong truly are?
Even in sports these days, justice is paramount. A referee or umpire’s call isn’t good enough anymore. We have “instant” replay to make sure, and calls are overturned all the time. We can’t accept human “error.”
Except that all humans err.
So, it’s all about the conclusive video evidence, the body cameras, what’s written in emails and tweets or spoken before a videographer, hidden or otherwise.
When the woman is caught in adultery, do we throw the first stone? She’s obviously guilty, you know. That’s what justice is.
But justice wasn’t applied fairly in that story from the Bible. The man who committed the adultery was just as guilty as the woman was, and should have been stoned as well. Why was he not brought to “trial”?
Who sees the big picture? Isn’t that a judge’s job?
But if a judge is appointed or elected by Republicans or Democrats, how is that “fair”? Either way? Again, is there such a thing as right and wrong independent of politics?
Not in the United States, there isn’t. Not now, anyway.
“But the Lord of hosts is exalted by justice,
And the Holy God shows himself holy by righteousness.”
Perhaps there really is a bigger picture. Perhaps Isaiah understood something 2,700 years ago that we have forgotten today.
The Lord of hosts is not the God of white America. That’s not what I’m saying at all, although I’m sure at least some of you are thinking that. Because in our history white Americans administered justice unfairly in the name of God. And people with power, of any color or religion, have administered justice unfairly pretty much since time began.
That just proves my point.
How can humans – any human – define justice, and get it right every single time?
I don’t think we can. Even video evidence is inconclusive much of the time.
Is justice even possible?
Isaiah connected justice with holiness and righteousness.
Big words. Big ideas. Bigger than you and I, for sure.
Is that kind of justice worth pursuing?
Or do we humans have to figure this all out by ourselves?