A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Justice delayed is justice denied

So goes a common saying, especially among those who consider themselves advocates of social justice.

It makes a great bumper sticker and a good chant for a picket line: Justice delayed, justice denied; Justice delayed, justice denied.

It is also, strictly speaking, true.

Those who are find of this saying may find comfort in some of what our Lord says in today’s Gospel (Luke 18:1-8):

Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones
who call out to him day and night?
Will he be slow to answer them?
I tell you, he will see to it
that justice is done for them speedily.

Yeah! God’s going to do justice for us speedily!

Yeah! No more justice delayed, justice denied!

Experience, however, says something a little different: God often seems to be very slow in doing justice for his chosen ones. God’s poor ones pray and pray, but sometimes all that seems to happen is even more injustice.

So, what’s the deal?

First of all, some people have a subjective idea of justice: what they call justice is not what is due but what is desired.

Second, justice is rarely simple. For one thing, rights correspond with obligations (while modern society often tries to shift, obscure or even deny moral obligations). For another thing, true justice is often delayed for man because of man’s inability (or unwillingness) to know truth.

For these and other reasons, true justice often waits for the action of God.

Which brings us back to the question: what happened to God’s promise of speedy justice?

Again, not every human idea of justice is true justice and God’s justice is always true.

There are also three critically important concepts in understanding the timing of God’s justice: free will, instrumentality, and mercy.

God has given humankind the gift of free will. This free will, corrupted by sin, has woven a complex web of injustice upon injustice in our lives and in our world. If God were to take away free will, true and absolute justice would reign, but God will not take away that gift.

Second, God has called us to be his people and his instruments in this world: to be speakers of the truth, givers of mercy, and workers for justice. As evil as error, hatred, and injustice may be, they are also opportunities for us to carry out our God-given mission and to be his instruments in this world. Thus the justice of God on some level depends upon us as his instruments.

Finally, the justice of God coexists with the mercy of God: the same patience and mercy that he shows to us, miserable sinners that we are, he also shows to other miserable sinners - even the most evil of oppressors. This truth reminds us of the need and the opportunity for mercy and of the power of mercy, especially in the face of injustice: mercy for which we must pray – for ourselves and others – and mercy for which we must be God’s instruments.

God’s justice does not delay, it comes speedily, but in the vanguard of God’s justice is God’s mercy and also in the vanguard of God’s justice are we his servants, who are called to be instruments of his justice and mercy until, according to his just and merciful plan, that justice and mercy reaches perfection at the foot of God’s great judgment seat.

(Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, be merciful to me – a sinner.)