The following is taken from the Summer 2011 Servicette
Bishop David A. Zubik, Episcopal Chairman
There are a host of legal definitions of justice – the balancing of the scales; the unbiased judgment of conflicting claims; a search for truth only dimly seen; the compensation due the victimized; even the penalty for crime. We can give justice a social definition as well – balancing the needs of the many with the rights of the individual; a commitment to a society that removes all pre–established barriers; a society’s particular presumption in favor of the poor, the weak and the helpless.
All these are good definitions. All these have benefits. But there is a problem with these definitions of justice – they are elusive and can seem almost unattainable. Justice is always our goal in this life; but justice is never quite perfect, and often far from reach.
In Acts, the story is told of the Apostles Peter and Paul curing a crippled man. To prove that no good deed goes unpunished, Peter and John were promptly tossed into jail after the miracle. When they were hauled before the authorities the next day they were asked by what power or what name they cured. Peter, filled with the Spirit, answered that it “was in the name of Jesus the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed” (Acts 4: 1–11).
Did you ever notice how much of the New Testament takes place in the backdrop of arrests, imprisonment and trials? John the Baptist is hurled into Herod’s dungeons. In the Acts of the Apostles the disciples of Jesus seem to spend as much time in jail as out of it. And there are the central events of the arrest, trial and condemnation of Jesus.
Scripture is immersed in the concept of the hunger for justice. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us in the Beatitudes that those seeking justice – who hunger and thirst for righteousness – will be satisfied in the Kingdom of Heaven. But there are those who read of the horrible destruction of a tornado in Missouri, or of an earthquake killing tens of thousands in Haiti or Japan, and argue that God has abandoned us. Or there is no God at all.
The new school of atheism trots out the old arguments. There is no God because there is no justice in this life. They argue that the inequities of this world – that evil triumphs over good, that the poor never win, that humans suffer without regard to merit or guilt – prove a non–existent God. No God worthy of worship could allow evil to persist so victoriously, they say.
This means only that we fail to understand God’s justice. When you think about it at all, you realize that the shortcomings of the human search for justice are not God’s fault, but humanity’s fault. The failure of justice in the human condition does not speak to a non–existent God–it in fact speaks to a living, loving God.
Understanding God’s justice means knowing that we not only define ourselves by our basic beliefs, but that we act in concert with them. It means that we seek to become more like God. It means that we seek the good for all of God’s creation and by our lives try to create harmony and peace in our world. God’s justice means that we understand that God has created us to live his love. And that our lives will be judged accordingly.
God’s justice gives fundamental meaning to every life. God’s justice is the assurance that goodness and rightness will prevail, no matter what we perceive in this life.
When we search for God’s justice, when we live for God’s justice, we will find it. It is there. It is real. It is Truth. It is indeed the mind and the heart of God. †