In the name of seeking justice, injustice is birthed from competing justices. These are no mere philosophical musings, as this statement only describes the bitter battlefields of the past few years.
We are not the first to live in a pluralistic society where different concepts of justice are warring to establish their vision of fairness and rightness in the world. After all, Jesus himself was born into a time rife with pluralism in the Roman Empire. He was born into the Jewish people, who themselves were divided about how to respond to Roman occupation and Roman rule. Some sought to keep the peace and assimilate, others wanted to fight power with power, others sought to focus on living holy lives (and even within this group, various subgroups fought about what constituted living a holy life).
It is what C.S. Lewis called chronological snobbery to think our current battlefield singular and unique in the human experience. I am not belittling the bewilderment and frustration of our particular cultural moment. We are living in mind-boggling, soul-shaking, foundation-exposing times. However, this current ideological battlefield is only a new front of a very ancient war (Ephesians 6:12).
As those made in the image of God, every human has some remnant of a justice sentiment. We want fairness and fight when what we define as fairness is violated. But what happens when we have different concepts of fairness or even those with the same end-goal conceive of vastly different routes to take towards such an ideal?
I need not tell you what happens. You are living in what happens.
One must either hide and hang out only within those who agree with your sense of justice (huddle, hide, and hope for better times) or fight with those who differ, whether with missiles or malicious words (fiercely fight for military or political might).
In his book The Everlasting Man, G.K Chesterton argues that God wisely stepped into time exactly when he did. The wave of the world had crested; humanity and a merely human concept of justice had reached its crest in the Roman Empire. Man had done the best he could. And failed. Miserably. Our best attempts at establishing justice only proved our inability and created more injustice.
Any and every solution build from man for man will fail. Man and man-made systems cannot fix the problem that man created when man rejected God as the center and hub of all things, visible and invisible.
Christ refused to be drawn into the battle lines that had been drawn by men. He continually pointed to the battle lines that we drew when we stepped outside the ancient boundary given by God for our good. But he did far more than point to them. He stepped into the injustice and bore the weight of eternal injustice.
We clamor for the perfect king:
We campaign only to arraign
We endlessly elect leaders
Who promise but don’t attain.
We demand only to depose,
Measure by a shifting scale.
One group builds a system
That another works to derail.
One of a limited vantage point
Points the finger at another.
Justice competes with justice.
Arming brother against brother.
Man-made justice keeps failing;
Every attempt earns the verdict.
The evidence is irrefutable:
We cry for a rule who is perfect.
Yet we have always had Him.
The King of thorn and scar.
His substantive Word stands.
His justice is better by far.
I don’t have neat answers for how to live in this strange time. I haven’t studied political science. I am wrestling deeply with how to live out God’s commands to do justice and love mercy since they are so close to his heart (James 1:27).But I do know this much. God is the just judge (Psalm 45:6-7). He sets the parameters (Isaiah 44:24-25). He is preeminent (Colossians 1:15-20). He has priority (Matthew 6:33). He himself is our peace (Ephesians 2:14).
This Just Judge submitted to unjust authorities to bear injustices we committed. We must learn our justice from the only Just One.