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Love and Justice


There’s justice, and then there’s love. You can only have one or the other, right? That seems to be the pervasive assumption in our day and age, and it uses a logical flow of thought that is easy to follow. Justice requires an impersonal judge meting out consequences; love requires a personal touch of purposely overlooking offenses. When thinking about these two characteristics, which one seems more important to you? Depending on the situation or position this question is applied to it could go either way, but I would guess that most often love would be chosen as the ‘higher’ trait. As people think about the character of God, this is a crucial question in which justice and love are often pitted against each other. 


As a case-in-point, I recently read a politically charged article on CNN (what’d I think I’d see, funny cat videos?) about how God has about had enough of us and our laws in America for being mean to people who commit crimes. “Love is all we need!” was the cry. The author lectured about God’s primary characteristic being love, over against the often used but ill-advised description of God’s justice by mean-spirited Bible-thumpers.


I want to lead us through a thought-experiment to test the foundation of these claims that love and justice are opposing traits. We are all very judgmental people, aren’t we? This is my very basic premise. Think about it: We are constantly determining who is in the right, and who is in the wrong. Using these discerning capacities is a gracious gift from God. Justice is a very good thing to pursue. But as fallen people, our metric of justice has gone askew. Only God’s judgments are always perfectly right. But guess what? Even though we’re so good at being critics, WE will sit in GOD’s eternal courtroom. Because God is Just, it is in his perfect nature, not to overlook sin, but to punish it! We all stand rightly condemned apart from the atoning sacrifice of Christ. What does this show? Understanding perfect justice from God’s perspective helps us also see what perfect love is. Love is not simply an overlooking or ignoring of wrong-doing, but it requires an action of making it right. The old phrase ‘love is a verb’ holds true according to God’s example. Love is not necessarily dependent on justice, but it does relate with justice according to its definition. To love is to sacrificially desire and act towards the best for another. Therefore, love recognizes when something is truly wrong and does something to right the wrong. God did this for mankind through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Because of this, the overwhelming view that love is a ‘live and let live’ philosophy that encourages individualistic impulses, and that real justice is unrelated or even opposed to this is first of all, laziness masquerading as virtue, and secondly, either

a. Not loving. This is the case if someone does not know right from wrong.


OR, even worse,


b. Unloving. This is the case if someone knows right from wrong and does nothing to make a right. 


As Christians, we do not assume that the world around us knows the love of Christ, but we share what he DID in love for them, making it possible to be right with a perfectly just AND perfectly loving God.