A Window into Life in the Suburbs

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Monday, September 13, 2010

God Talk: Justice

Ah... I love Jane Austen... for a multitude of reasons. Let me count the ways.
In a Jane Austen universe, everyone ends up getting what they deserve. More or less.
The Wickhams, Willoughbys and Eltons may evade wider legal action or social censure even but they do not entirely escape the results of their immoral or imprudent choices.
The good guys and their girls... live happily ever after... They are the blessed ones... to find love and to deserve it.
Some would call it poetic justice and those of us who look on, look on with a sense of satisfaction that good does prevail. Fictional though these tales may be, they provide us some degree of assurance that in most cases, justice is served.
Stories like these are driven by the belief that ALL choices have consequences. And none of us can escape the laws that govern the universe... for good or for ill.

However, in our age we are determined to thwart these consequences. Trying desperately not to reap what we sow. Science, the machinations of men in the legal system have been co-opted in many instances to do this, for good and for ill.
Justice seems to be an abstract concept that applies to murderers, thieves and thugs but not to the rest of us mere mortals. Afterall, didn't the presidential candidate Barack Obama suggest that his support for abortion sprung from his belief that his daughters should not have to pay for the rest of their lives for a moment of indiscretion?

The Christian gospel is good news because it is about forgiveness. Forgiveness assumes that wrong has been done and for reconciliation to occur between parties, a bridge needs to be built. But forgiveness isn't a pretence that no sin has occurred but the frank acknowledgement that wrong has been done and attempts must be made to restore the relationship. However, those of us who name the name of Christ often forget that justice had to be served so that grace could be given freely. The Son of God had to die to pay the price that we should have been the ones to pay.
Justice was served... on that Passover weekend... on our behalf. Death was the penalty -- eternal separation from our Creator. But in Christ, we have life and are reconciled to our Creator.
We deserved justice but instead we received mercy.

Justice is a universal ideal because the God who created the universe is a just God. Even though he loved his creation, he, too, had to play by the rules he had enacted at the beginning of time.

In the Judgement at Nuremberg, four judges are brought to trial for miscarriages of justice commited in Germany during the war years. One in particular, Janning, was a great juror in his heyday, writing books on the importance of the judicial system. But under the Nazi regime, Janning and his fellow judges, turned a blind eye to Nazi excesses and used their power as judges to enforce anti-semitic and other social engineering policies on helpless individuals in the name of justice.

There's a powerful moment at the end when the American judge, Haywood goes to visit Janning in prison. Janning has accepted his culpability and punishment. But perhaps to appease his own conscience he says to Haywood:

Judge Haywood... the reason I asked you to come: Those people, those millions of people... I never knew it would come to that. You *must* believe it, *You must* believe it!
Haywood responds thus:

Herr Janning, it "came to that" the *first time* you sentenced a man to death you *knew* to be innocent.
Haywood's point is significant. The road to hell is paved with little acts of injustice. The holocaust was the result of little sins. Hitler, Goebbels and Himmler were not the disease but the symptom. The reasons why a Hitler could be allowed to flourish in such a society was inherent within the society itself.
In the end, as Haywood points out in his concluding remarks, justice transcends national boundaries. When justice is circumvented for national interest, humanity loses its conscience. And once that conscience is seared, anything can be rationalized for "the greater good" or any form of political expediency. By circumventing the truth and good for "king and country", even good men can become the monsters that they abhor.


  1. Man I wish I could write as fluently as you do Lilian. I don't always totally understand what you mean cos I don't always know what the big words mean, but I just love how fluent you are.( I think thats the right word I want to explain it)

  2. Thanks.. I think... :D
    One of the men that supervised my Honours dissertation can probably take most of the credit for any fluency that I've achieved over the years.

    I didn't realise that I used that many big words. :D It probably comes to the surface much more when I'm in one of my preachy moods.


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