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No Justice, No Peace?

In a world marred by sin, injustice remains prevalent, and justice will never be perfectly executed. How then are we to respond to injustice? How then can we have peace?
 

 

If Scripture teaches us anything about the character of God, it is that He is just. He is holy, righteous. He will “by no means clear the guilty” (Ex. 34:7), He is a “God of vengeance” (Ps. 94:1), a “consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29). And as people made in God’s image, a sense of justice and desire for it is something He has endowed us with. We desire wrongs to be righted, we long to see those who break the law suffer the penalty for their actions. God, from His own perfect nature, has set forth the standard for justice, and He commands us to recognize and uphold this, to judge with right judgment, to vindicate the innocent and condemn the guilty (Prov. 17:15). He has even instituted and ordained civil governments to uphold and enforce these standards of justice (Rom 13:4-5, 1 Pet. 2:14).
 
And it is true that when these standards are consistently recognized and carried out, there will be a measure of peace within communities. Indeed, God has blessed us with a conscience that bears witness to true justice, His word that reveals true justice, and human authorities to uphold true justice, and yet, we see so much injustice. In a world marred by sin, injustice remains prevalent, and justice will never be perfectly executed. How then are we to respond to injustice? How then can we have peace?
 

Peace In The Midst of Injustice

The Psalms are filled with cries for judgment upon the wicked, for God to destroy His enemies; but regardless of whether or not this prayer is answered, there is always peace and assurance for the Psalmist. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul, unjustly imprisoned, is able to say that he has peace and contentment in all circumstances (Ph. 4:11-12). Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, calls to peace Christians who are suffering serious persecution for their faith (1 Pet. 1:2).
 
The reason why Christians can have peace in the midst of injustice is a simple one: we know that ultimately no sin will go unpunished. We are not all knowing; we will never have all the facts; we will not bring to justice every lawbreaker. But God is all knowing, He sees all injustice, knows every transgression, and there will come a day when He will bring a just judgment on every sin (Acts 17:31, Rom. 2:16). Therefore, we can have comfort and peace in knowing that ultimately, no one will “get away with” anything.
 
Now, this certainly does not mean that we are unconcerned with pursuing justice in this life; as Christians, we of all people understand the need for crime to be rightly penalized. However, when justice in this life fails, we are not driven to despair, rage, or violence, nor do we condone or justify these things. We do not take the law into our own hands, we do not respond to injustice with more injustice—this satisfies and solves nothing. Injustice cannot be used as an occasion to indulge in our most depraved and destructive sinful inclinations.
 
How are we to rightly respond? By holding God’s ordained authorities accountable to His word, by pleading with our civil governors for a punishment befitting the crime—no more and no less. And if they fail (which inevitably they will in this fallen world), we do not lose heart, because we know that the scales of justice will be balanced once and for all on that day of righteous judgment.
 

Lasting Peace

Civic peace and justice are important and ought to be sought after, yet true and lasting peace has but one source. It is true that for peace to be a reality, justice must be present and ultimately, the peace we need is between us and God. This is why the cross is central; it is the epitome of justice, bringing about the epitome of peace. It is only by God executing the just penalty for our sin upon His righteous, sinless Son that we can have peace with Him (Rom. 5:12). Apart from this, there is only enmity between us and God.
 
But the peace wrought by the justice of the cross does not end there. This is the source and foundation of our peace with fellow man.
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near (Eph. 2:14-17).
 
So the superficial distinctions that divide us no longer do so. Our identities in the flesh are far subservient to our new identity in Christ. True unity with one another can only be achieved through union with Christ; true love for our neighbors and enemies alike can only be accomplished by the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is the message that mankind has always needed to hear, and so evidently needs to hear today.
 

Important But Incapable

Civil justice is important, but it is utterly incapable of dealing with the root issue. Injustice, prejudice, violence, rage—these sins in individuals are issues of the heart, and the only way to meaningfully address them is with something that can pierce through to the heart, and that is the word of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is through the gospel that the sinful heart is transformed into one that is no longer rebellious, but now seeks obedience, no longer hateful, but now filled with love, no longer stubborn, but now broken by sin and able to repent before God, and be assured of the peace we have with God through Christ.
 

It is true, justice is necessary for peace to prevail, but we must never forget that true peace can only be established by the justice of sin being punished on the cross, and it is this message—the one of repentance and faith—that Christians must be proclaiming, now as much as ever.

 
Luke Griffo is a member of leadership at Redeemer Church of South Hills in West Mifflin, PA.  Click here for more RCSH Blog posts. 
 
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