For I, the Lord, love justice. (Isaiah 81:8a)
Justice isn’t a swift hammer descending upon us in judgment (although it can certainly be that at times and most definitely feels like that even more often). Justice is an expression of God’s love. It is teaching, consequence, mercy, and rebuke all rolled into one. We often categorize love and justice as opposing characteristics that can’t be reconciled. We see love as mercy with no judgment. We see justice as judgment with no love or mercy.
Neither is correct.
God is love, and God is just. Because He is both, the too must coexist. They cannot contradict each other because God cannot contradict Himself. We can’t simply fit our definition of justice into our definition of love or vice versa. We must try to see both entwined together, because both are characteristics of God. Neither gets downplayed or highlighted. Both are significant and both are true.
We tie fairness and equal treatment (lack of discrimination) with justice. But God’s justice goes beyond this. The Bible teaches that justice begins and ends with God. He created the world as a place of justice, and we live within that world. There are consequences to our behavior.
God’s justice isn’t just about this world but extends into eternity. He provides for eternity just as He provides for life on earth. Both include justice. And God’s justice is personal. It helps people grow closer to Him. It helps people serve Him and show His love by living abundantly alongside others. People are at the heart of God’s justice. Justice is a provision for us. Justice creates a structure in which we can have good, loving, godly relationships. Justice provides a way to correct any missteps we take in order to turn us back to the path that will draw us closer to God and honor Him.
God’s justice is always loving.
God always continues to desire and seek good for us, even when we don’t desire and seek good for ourselves and others. God’s love is redemptive, establishing a relationship with us that draws us closer to Him. He doesn’t want to be separated from us, but because we don’t remain committed to Him, His love and justice provides the way of reconciliation.
When we’re committed to God, we’re committed to care for and honor each other. God gives us love, faithfulness, and justice. We give it to Him in return. He provides it; we access it and live it out in daily life. We don’t always hold up our end of the commitment…but God always holds up His end.
As God has planned, justice is always intended to show God’s love, and love is always intended to seek justice. If we try to separate the two out and give justice without love or love without justice, we’re not authentically reflecting the will and character of God.
Of course, there is tension between justice and love in the world, because the ways of the world aren’t the same as the ways of God. Even when we seek to live out God’s love and justice as individuals, we will struggle as we work through the ways of the world. We may be God’s and not belong to the world, but we still live in the world, and that means, we wrestle through issues and situations.
Above all else, we must live God’s love and justice out loud. We need to know God, seek His way, follow His will, and stop rationalizing how love trumps justice in one situation and justice overshadows love in another. They’re not mutually-exclusive concepts. We need to stop living as if they are.
Dear God, I yield to Your love and justice. I don’t have the insight on my own to know exactly how to weave them together in every situation. I need Your wisdom. I accept that I don’t need to understand everything about Your love and justice in order to live it out. I simply need to seek You and know You so intimately that when a situation arises, I see it as an opportunity to boldly step out in obedient faith. Thank You for guiding me, Lord. Thank You for Your love and justice.