America is a “law and order, justice first, and justice always” sort of country.
Politicians mark campaigns by how they approach justice, and hundreds of thousands of citizens are employed throughout the country to carry it out. It’s the envy of many countries in the world. But one serious flaw kinks our system, and every system: justice is never perfect.
The innocent get convicted; the guilty get acquitted. And earthly justice can never wholly restore victims of injustice. The Teacher of Ecclesiastes foresaw this predicament thousands of years ago.
Furthermore, I have seen under the sun that in the place of justice there is wickedness and in the place of righteous there is wickedness…then I looked again at all the acts of oppression which were being done under the sun. And behold I saw the tears of the oppressed and that they had no one to comfort them; and on the side of the oppressors was power, but they had no one to comfort them. (Ecclesiastes 3:16 & 4:1)
Broken people living in a broken world can’t carry out perfect justice. Sin demands justice; but our justice can’t fix sin. Justice seeks to right wrongs, but it can’t reverse the damage of the wrongs. Compensating injustice with money is like giving a piece of cake to someone who just lost a limb. It doesn’t even begin to address the pain or reverse the tragedy of, say, a losing a loved one to a homicide.
True justice remains unstained by the influence of money, power, prestige and social status. But, as we know—some far better than others—certain components tip the justice scales. Hiring an expensive defense attorney greatly increases chances of acquittal, no matter how guilty you are. Wrongly accused men pay for the sins of other’s crimes if they can’t foot an attorney’s bill.
And then, of course, there’s the simple fact that the justice system fails. According to the Innocence Project:
“The first DNA exoneration took place in 1989… since 2000, there have been 225 exonerations.”
“The average length of time served by exonerees is 13 years. The total number of years served is approximately 3,839 (and counting).”
Imagine enduring a long, drawn out trial for something you didn’t do, being unfairly convicted, then serving 13 years while the guilty person walks out to live the dream.
The point here is not to dismiss the American justice system. It does a lot of good too. Our prosecutors, courts, juries and judges put thousands of guilty convicts behind bars every year. The question is whether or not we expect our justice system to fix the ultimate problem.
Like everything Ecclesiastes’ Teacher alludes to in his book, we’re trapped in unending cycles—incapable of breaking free. If all there is to life is what’s under the sun, then everything, including our much lauded justice, is expendable.
What’s the solution? The solution lies only when we look beyond the sun. Answers to injustice issues can’t be secured by fallible people living in a fading world. Only when we look beyond ourselves to Christ and His Gospel do we find eternal and true justice. Only then do we escape the cycles of injustice that plague our lives. So, there are two things to remember here.
Justice Will Come
Jesus is coming back and when He does, every wrong ever committed will be righted. He will wipe away every tear and ounce of suffering; He will erase pain and sickness; He will resurrect the dead, and the faithful will thrive in perfect peace and harmony with Him. This isn’t theory, conjecture or wishful thinking. It’s bona fide, absolute, non-negotiable truth.
It’s Not Promised Now
We experience glimpses of justice where the wicked are punished and the righteous exalted. But these outcome is not guaranteed in this life. Everlasting comfort accompanied by final restitution cannot be expected under the sun. Again, we’re broken people living in a broken world. But it will come. That’s where our hope and comfort lies.
God is just. He inaugurated His justice system through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. We all stand guilty before God—stuck and unable to free ourselves from impending and eternal punishment. God, in His absolute love and mercy, stepped in on our behalf. He sent Christ to bear our guilty verdict for us. He suffered our punishment and took the wrath of God’s judgment for us. That is the ultimate Justice System.
Seek justice on this earth. But look beyond the expendable systems under the sun and wait with great anticipation of what’s to come in Jesus.