Human beings instinctively long for justice. Our definitions of justice may be rooted in different value systems, but we all long for justice. We want things to be set right.
Case in point, consider the Saints-Rams NFC championship game a few weeks back. The end of the game will live in infamy because an official clearly missed a pass interference call. Of course, you never really know if a penalty would have changed the outcome of a particular game. However, this no-call was critical to the way the game played out.
Ever since this official swallowed his whistle, Saints fans have been demanding justice, writing letters to the league office, complaining on social media, filing lawsuits, and even protesting during Super Bowl 53.
Why the outrage? Why will Saints fans always remember this no-call that possible cost their team a trip to the Super Bowl? The answer is simple. Deep down we want justice. When we experience an injustice, we instinctively know that things need to be set right.
Ironically, when it comes to the justice of God, many of us begin backpedaling. We hear about God’s wrath and anger toward sin, and many of us become squeamish and uncomfortable. We instinctively try to minimize and justify our sin. We even wonder if God isn’t being a bit cranky with all the wrath and anger stuff.
How do we make sense of this apparent contradiction within our own hearts? On the one hand we instinctively long for things to be set right, even in seemingly trivial matters. On the other hand, we don’t seem to see eternal death as a just punishment for our sins.
To make sense of our longing for justice, we need to look no further than Genesis 1-2 and Romans 1-2. Human beings are created in the image of God who is perfectly just, and our conscience – seared as it may be by sin – instinctively tells us there is right and there is wrong. We are hardwired to long for justice.
At the same time, sin has distorted the way we feel about God and the way we think about God. Sin convinces us that we aren’t as bad as the Bible says we are, and sin tries to bring God down to our level. Sin causes us to think too highly about ourselves and too lightly about God. When our thoughts of God and self are out of whack, we begin to feel uneasy about the justness of God’s justice.
The answer to this dilemma is the gospel. God is holy. We are sinful. Justice demands that God call wickedness to account until none is left (Psalm 10). However, if God were to call all wickedness to account there would be none left! That’s why the gospel is good news. Jesus died to satisfy the justice of God. He bore the curse in our place so that God could be both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26).