Justice is the virtue I have personally grappled with the most throughout my life, which is apparently a problem, because it turns out the Lord loves justice (Is 61:8). I struggled for a while in my younger years with proper repercussions for heinous sins, such as the death penalty. It was hard for me to truly know what a just punishment meant.
For me, justice meant law, and at first that law was more based in the “eye for an eye” structure.
When I came to truly know Christ and study theology, I was perplexed and even unnerved by God’s mercy. It was at that time that I realized I didn’t understand justice at all – at least not from God’s perspective. From that point, trying to understand the delicate balance between justice and mercy seemed impossible.
Of course, I wanted mercy for myself and my wrongdoings, but on the other hand, I didn’t want “worse” sinners to just get off scot-free. I liken this struggle with justice to the interior battle suffered by Javert in Les Misérables, who couldn’t accept the possibility of repentance in another, and more so, would not allow mercy to soften his hardened heart.
But as Christians, we are called to be just and righteous, and at the same time that justice requires kindness and mercy. I had certainly not thought justice could be enacted with kindness – but that was before Christ – that was because I was not elevating my understanding of justice to the one who wrote it on my heart.
I see now that justice goes far beyond rights and laws that govern them. At the core of justice is to will the good of the other, and to work to bring the other to righteousness, that they may also embrace truth and goodness, and be transformed through Christ.