I tend to desire every outcome in my life to be fair. I know we all want to be treated justly, but people with my proclivity get offended whenever any injustice, perceived or actual, is committed against us. We hate being cheated, irrespective of the intentions of the other party. For instance, if I go to a restaurant with five friends, my natural tendency is to ensure the bill is shared equally, even if the total doesn’t neatly split five ways. If I’m working on a group task, I’m irked by those who aren’t contributing their full quota and will do all I can to ensure they don’t receive the same rewards as those who pulled their weight. Some people can easily ignore these injustices, but I struggle to let go, especially if I think others are taking advantage of my benevolence or the kindness of others.
I can say from experience that living this way increases stress and anxiety. No one can enforce justice in every situation. Moreover, it’s also an exhausting pursuit. Additionally, if you’re focused on ensuring fairness at all costs, there’ll be little room for compromise, nuance, or the flaws of others. Invariably, you will find yourself ascribing motives to their actions and passing judgement regularly. Yes, some of your assumptions may be correct, but you’ll inevitably get some wrong because you’re not perfect. The damage resulting from ascribing incorrect motives to the actions of others can erode trust in relationships and severely hurt everyone involved. That said, being created in the image of a just God means we’re hardwired to desire justice [Psalm 145:17]. So, how do we deal with the tensions arising from the daily inequities we face and our desires for fairness?
Scripture offers answers. If we embrace them, they will liberate us from pursuing justice at all costs. First, it assures us that nothing in our lives, whether seemingly inconsequential or significant, escapes the attention of God [Proverbs 15:3]. That includes what we do for and to others and what they do for and to us. More importantly, it also encompasses the motives behind every action we take. In a literal sense, God maintains a watchful eye over all His creation [Hebrews 4:13]. Secondly, Scripture says God is the judge of all the earth [Psalm 96:13]. If we can grasp these truths about who God is, then certain occurrences in our lives won’t trigger responses to get even or obtain justice at all costs. We will live our lives empowered by the revelation that God eventually vindicates the righteous and punishes the unrighteous.
It’s worth stressing that understanding God’s justice system shouldn’t make us ambivalent towards injustice. On the contrary, we must care about injustice [Micah 6:8]. As God’s children, we must act justly in all circumstances towards others and defend the causes of the poor, the orphan, the widow or widower, the immigrant and anyone else unjustly treated [Zechariah 7:9-10]. Our heavenly Father desires us to become His hands and feet, administering justice in our spheres of influence. Such a pursuit may cost us dearly in this life, but we can be sure that our actions, driven by love and obedience to God, will be rewarded by the God who sees [Genesis 16:13].
Being unencumbered by pursuing justice at all costs also frees us to love. Too often, we hold onto grudges because of wrongs committed against us, and that prevents us from being loving towards others, especially our enemies. Loving those who wrong us is difficult. Yet, Jesus commands us to do it regardless [Matthew 5:44]. I believe Jesus was able to love His enemies and even those who killed him because He knew that His Father would vindicate Him. God’s justice demanded that Jesus be raised from the dead because Jesus lived a perfect life [2 Corinthians 5:21]. We need to exhibit the same trust in God if we’re to live righteous in the world where most look out for themselves alone. We can’t seek or enforce justice at the expense of the ultimate commandment – to love God and others [Luke 10:27-28].
So I welcome you to examine your life. Where have you been wronged? How did you react? Maybe you haven’t been wronged, but you could be in a relationship where you feel your partner isn’t making an equal contribution, so you feel cheated? A seemingly insignificant incident can snowball quickly and become a bone of contention which harms your relationship. These are some of life’s circumstances which can lead to what the Bible calls “the root of bitterness” [Hebrews 12:15]. While there may be other factors to consider, if we can trust God to vindicate us, it will be easier to let go of hurts and forgive or tolerate the failings and flaws of others, knowing that God is watching.
It’s easy to point fingers at nations squabbling over land or companies fighting bitterly over intellectual property. Yet, the same principle applies at a macro or micro level. God is the judge of all. Nothing is too insignificant for Him to adjudicate. So, this week, I encourage all of us to live from the perspective of the justice system of God. Our lives should reflect an understanding that a just God wants us to live with integrity and treat others fairly, just as we want to be treated [Matthew 7:12]. Additionally, if we are wronged or cheated, we don’t need to seek justice at all costs because God will vindicate the righteous in this life or the next [Romans 12:19-21]. When He does, you’ll be glad you left it to Him.