The other day on my morning run, I saw a popular sign reflecting the protests over the tragic shooting deaths of black Americans by the police. The sign read, “No justice; no peace.” People today are calling for justice–justice for black Americans; justice for women; justice for the unborn; justice for the “Dreamers” (DACA); justice for everyone who has been oppressed. When will there be “justice for all” which is promised by the U.S. Constitution and highlighted in our nation’s Pledge of Allegiance? American’s have looked to lawmakers, the courts and judges with the hope of getting justice. But they have been disappointed by unmet expectations.
The Apostle Paul believed in a God of justice. The Greek word for “justice” (dike) denotes “what is right.” The Greeks believed in Dike (counterpart to the Roman Justitia), a goddess of justice, who would inflict a just punishment on the guilty. When the poisonous viper attached itself to Paul’s hand, the observer assumed that Paul was a murderer and “Justice (Dike) has not allowed him to live” (Acts 28:4). The word is used by Paul to refer to the just “penalty” (dike) for rejecting God and His provision of salvation through Jesus (2 Thess. 1:8-9). Paul used a related word (dikaios) to refer to what God has declared to be right. He told the Thessalonian believers that it was “just (dikaios) for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you” (2 Thess. 1:6). On the other hand, God was “right” or “just” in acquitting believers of their guilt and consequent punishment on the basis of their faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26).
When most people ask for justice, they are appealing for the rights, freedoms and opportunities they believe they deserve. But when Paul writes about justice, he is referring to God being “right” in executing judgment on those who have rejected Him and the truth of His Word (Rom. 1:32). Many people are demanding justice now! But Paul assures us that justice is coming and it is not going to be nice. God’s justice means that we get what we deserve. The wages of sin is death and eternal separation from the presence of God (Rom. 6:23, 2 Thess. 1:9). That is not the “justice” most people are looking for today.
I am thankful that the justice I deserved fell upon Jesus. He took my place and received the wrath which I deserved. As a result, I can enjoy “peace with God” (Rom. 5:1). Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. Believers in Jesus receive both peace and justice now through His gracious person and work.