Justice For All
By: James C. Vallance
“With liberty and justice for all.” These words once echoed in our schoolrooms as we daily stood and recited the Pledge of Allegiance with hands pressed over our hearts. These principles were embraced by our forefathers and are the foundation of our country. And with good reason. We naturally want to live our lives in freedom and expect to be treated with fairness.
Webster’s dictionary defines “justice” as the administration of reward or penalty as deserved. Justice is served when someone receives what he deserves, whether it is a paycheck for a job well done or a jail sentence for a crime committed. In today’s world, however, justice seems to have fallen by the wayside. “That’s Outrageous, ” a column in the Reader’s Digest, reminds us monthly that there are glaring injustices in our society. Several high-publicity court cases in the last couple of years have also highlighted injustice in our judicial system. Loopholes, technicalities, plea bargainings, and the latest defense that “wrong isn’t always wrong” cast serious doubt that there ever could be “justice for all” in our country.
Injustice in this world raises disturbing questions not only about human government, but also about God. How can a just God look down from Heaven and permit injustice to go unchecked? Is God aware? Is He concerned with justice? Could He enforce justice in this world if He wanted to? Will there be a day of reckoning when all wrongs will be made right?
Such questions are not unique to our age. In fact, they greatly concerned people in the Biblical times, people who had grown disheartened as God appeared to stand by and allow oppression and terror to run unchecked. Nahum was a prophet of God who explained the justice of God to the oppressed people of his day. Nahum assured his people that God was truly just, and fully in control. To help them understand why God operated as He did, however, Nahum dealt first with God’s character: “The Lord is slow to anger and great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished” (Nahum 1:3). An understanding of these characteristics of God will help us understand our country and world. The phrase “slow to anger” may seem to support a popular opinion that God is easygoing and has a long fuse when it comes to wrongful behavior. However, the Bible is clear that God has only one reaction to sin: anger! He hates sin with a holy passion and His anger burns against those who disobey His law (2 kings 22:13). Hence, His wrath is directed “against all the godlessness and wickedness of men” (Romans 1:18), and He is “angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11). Clearly, then, God is not impassive when it comes to sin. “Slow to anger” instead indicates that God is slow to express His anger.
This is truly one of the most beautiful discoveries in the Bible. God is not eager to display His anger because “God is love” (1 John 4:8). In love, God devised a just way to spare sinners from punishment. He provided His own Son as a substitute for them. Men crucified the Lord Jesus at Calvary, but more significantly, God punished Him there for man’s sin. In doing so, God was able to provide forgiveness of sin, or salvation, to man as a gift. The cross makes this salvation perfectly just, because God separated sin from the sinner at Calvary and fully dealt with that sin in Christ.
Like any gift, however, salvation must be accepted. To receive salvation from God, you must come to Christ in repentance and accept Him as your Savior. Since God desires all men to be saved, He has granted a period of grace, allowing you ample opportunity to accept His Son. God is slow to anger and patient with sinners, “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Unfortunately, this wonderful characteristic of God is misconstrued and abused by many. They mistake God’s lack of action for leniency. Because God is a God of Love, they think that He will never hold people accountable for their sin. They say there will be no day of reckoning. The Bible says that this belief will be prevalent in the last days before the second coming of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:4). Since we have not seen God intervening up until now, why should we believe He will ever act?
Nahum overturns this mistaken thought with a second characteristic of God: God “will not leave the guilty unpunished.” While injustice may reign today, there will be a future day of reckoning when God will make everything right. The guilty may elude justice in the judicial system of men today, but God will hold them accountable in the future.
However, the point is not for us to find solace in the fact that criminals will be brought to justice, but to take a long Biblical look inside ourselves and realize that we are all guilty before God because of our sin (Romans 3:19). Beyond this life, our eternal souls will exist in one of two places: Heaven or Hell. If God acted in immediate justice, we, the guilty , would all be in Hell. But God chose to postpone justice so His grace and mercy would have ample time to operate.
This explains why there will be people in Heaven. They have taken advantage of their God-given opportunity to come to Christ in repentance and faith for salvation. God no longer regards those who trust His Son as guilty, for He accepts Christ’s death as just payment for their sins. But those who ignore or reject God’s offer of mercy will stand before God guilty as charged.
Make no mistake, justice delayed is not justice denied. While God restrains His wrath to allow time for repentance, the wrath does not dissipate. On the contrary, it stockpiles with every sin committed (Romans 2:5). If you die without having your sin removed you will find yourself unsheltered from God’s wrath for all eternity. Recognize God’s delay in justice for what it is, an opportunity for you to come to Him for salvation. Miss it and you will find yourself face to face with divine justice.