Justice – In the Eye of the Beholder?

Lady Justice Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi was convicted in 2001 on all 270 counts of murder and given a life sentence. He served 8 years before being released last week for reasons of "compassion"–according to the Scottish minister of Justice. Al-Megrahi is dying of terminal prostate cancer.

Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill defended the decision to release
Megrahi: "Mr Al Megrahi has been sent back to Libya to die. We
deliberately eschewed political and diplomatic considerations, and he
was released according to due process and under licence conditions. Our
concerns are the interests of justice, and making the right decisions."

Megrahi was released in the "interest of justice." Hmmm…

Justice has fallen on hard times lately. "Justice" is thrown around almost as carelessly as "love" is. It's probably even harder to recognize. Justice today seems to be in the eye of the beholder. To the Scottish minister of justice, justice was to release a man convicted of murdering 270 people out of compassion. If your father was on that plane, you are likely to see it a bit differently–and be outraged by the jubilation Libyan crowds showed upon Megrahi's return.

Justice.

It's become a slippery term. Justice for who? And, can justice be had for some if it creates injustice for others?

Justice is a bible word, and thus it's defined by God, not by humankind. That's what will ultimately save us from our self-interested definitions and applications of it. In the mean time, we need to take our anger and frustrations to the Lord, asking for His justice to reign–and offer our willingness to serve Him in that pursuit.

We Christians must tread carefully with our nomenclature, particularly as we quote biblical passages that support our view of "justice." Justice is a biblical principle that we are called to uphold and seek earnestly. But, we need to remain humble enough to understand that sometimes our view of justice is shaped by our own politics, our own interests, and our own sin–not God.

This doesn't mean that justice is strictly in the eye of the beholder–or that it can't be had. It means that because only God's judgment is pure, we seek justice with humility. We don't stamp the "J" word on every opinion we have–whether it be health-care reform, economic policy or verdicts in the courtroom. Sometimes "justice" to me turns out to simply be my politics or view of how I wish things were. Other times, I'm closer the mark. Sometimes, perhaps even dead on. To me, justice was destroyed in the case of Ali al-Megrahi. I'm pretty sure I'm right.

But, justice will not always be attainable on this earth. That won't keep me from pursuing it. God has called me to.

God has also asked us to leave room for His wrath, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Let's trust Him in this. And, may we rejoice that God is not unjust. Only He judges rightly. So, I'll avoid the temptation to take justice into my own hands…and place it instead in His.

Risky question: What's the biggest aberration of justice you've ever seen? How did you handle it well or not so well?

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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