Justice is Blind

This is the second entry in a series of thoughts on living in a just society. The first post is here.

The first time I heard someone use the expression “justice is blind” I thought it was a derogatory statement. My elementary school mind could not understand how a lack of vision could be anything but detrimental to the cause of justice. But the saying and the associated image are pictures of impartiality, which is one of the cornerstones upon which a just society is built.

woman in dress holding sword figurine

The concept of justice dates back to the most ancient writings of mankind. Before the Romans added the goddess of Justice to their pantheon, the ancient civilizations of the middle east understood the concept. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Abraham asked God. God made a covenant with Abraham’s descendants that included measures pertaining to justice, including the prohibition of partiality in judgment.

The famous image of Lady Justice blindfolded while holding a balance scale is a picture of impartiality. In the scale the actions of an individual are measured against the standard of justice with no regard to what kind of person is being weighed in the balance. Hence the blindfold. I would hope that most of us would appreciate that this is exactly what we want in a just society: for every individual to be measured against the standard regardless of who they are.

This impartiality prevents us from allowing someone rich, powerful, or charismatic to get away with an injustice based on their personal appeal. It also means that we ought not dismiss transgressions committed by people we know and love simply because we know and love them. On the other hand, it means that a person should only be convicted if they really are guilty, not because they simply appear shady or are our personal enemies or belong to a certain group of which we do not approve.

In order to preserve this sense of impartiality, jurors in a trial are only chosen if they agree to view the evidence impartially. Family members, those who are directly affected by the crime, or those with clear personal biases are exempted. The point of being a good juror is that you are willing to measure the actions against the standard. Period. TV shows and movies that portray the outcome of a trial as dependent on the type of juror are sad as it means that true justice is not being carried out. A declaration of guilt or innocence should not come because of the personal biases of the jurors, but as a result of the evidence.

So does this really happen? Is justice truly blind? Because we are dealing with people we know that this principle will be practiced imperfectly, but we also know that is is a good principle. If someone is wrongfully convicted, by what principle do we overthrow the wrongful conviction? We don’t say, “Look, whether or not Jack did it the reason he got convicted was because of his red hair, but now everyone likes redheads so let’s get Jack out of prison.” The principle we use to overthrow Jack’s conviction is the principle that justice is blind, so “Jack got convicted because the jury didn’t look at the evidence, they just looked at his red hair. Let’s weigh the evidence and see if it shows that Jack actually committed this crime.”

If we “progress” as a society towards a view of life where every demographic (male vs female, rich vs poor, male vs female, straight vs gay) is weighed differently in the balance, we are moving towards a less just society. We are moving towards a society where Lady Justice has her eye on the person and her thumb on the scale. And we know this is happening because most people make up their minds before hearing any evidence based on the tribe to which they belong. This is the sad legacy of post-modernism in America.

There is nothing wrong with a bunch of creeps who sexually assualted women being arrested, tried, and if found guilty thrown in jail. But there is something wrong with guilt being assumed based solely on the fact that the accused is male. Why were the accusations against Brett Kavanaugh taken seriously but the accusations against Joe Biden are not? Why can Jimmy Kimmell keep his job after blackening his face to imitate Karl Malone but Meghan Kelley gets fired just for suggesting that maybe it isn’t racist to try to dress up like a cultural icon? The answer to those questions is that there is a cultural leaning that condemns some and pardons others based on who they are and to what tribe they belong. This is injustice.

Justice Defined

This is the first blog entry in a series on justice.

Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches. But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment (mishpat), and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD. 

God. Jeremiah 9:23-24

What does it mean to live in a just society? The ancient world knew little of justice in the sense that we think of justice. Justice was whatever the ruler, king, or local bully made of it. There was no legal recourse to correcting an “injustice” because there was no such thing as an injustice, intrinsic human rights, and such things that we take for granted.

When God redeemed Israel from slavery in Egypt, His purpose was to create an entire civilization that exhibited justice. They were to be the light to the nations and show the true way of God. Even a cursory reading of the Pentateuch would demonstrate this in the commands to care for the poor, to not oppress the foreigner, and to provide for orphans and widows. Centuries later, when God is expressing his grief and anger over Israel’s failure to live up to their calling, He sends prophets to condemn their failure to exhibit His justice. So how exactly do we define justice?

There are a couple of Hebrew words that are used throughout the Old Testament to describe justice, but even in the English we get a sense of what justice really is. To be “just” is to be “right”, or “righteous”. Justice is righteous behavior. It is impossible to think about justice without thinking about words such as virtue, sin, wickedness, mercy, and such. This is because justice is as much a personal attribute as it is a list of rules. Because God is fully righteous, He makes fully righteous laws. A morally virtuous people will enshrine their virtues into law while a wicked people will enshrine their greed, envy, and malice into law. The law simply reflects the heart of the law-giver.

All of this may seem somewhat nebulous and undefined, but that is chiefly because the concept is so large. We can bring the point home a little more clearly with a specific example from the Pentateuch: the law about loans and pledges. As in our day, oftentimes a lender would demand some sort of pledge to ensure that the loan was repaid. In ancient Israel that pledge might be something as simple as a man’s outer garment. In Deuteronomy 24:13, the lender is prohibited from keeping the outer garment overnight – even if it is the collateral – because that is what the man needs to stay warm at night. When a lender returns the pledge before nightfall, even if the loan has not been repaid, God counts that as righteousness (the same Hebrew word used for justice) . The legal terms of the loan are less important than the treatment of the actual person.

So in God’s eyes, justice is something like “treating others in a way that is consistent with the way God made the world.” In the case of the cloak, it would be wrong to allow another human being to sleep out in the cold without protection from the elements. Allowing him his cloak back is a superior form of justice over keeping the legal terms of a loan. Ultimately, the treatment of human beings in a “just” way comes down to the reality that man is made in the image of God. Outside of this there is little theological, philosophical, or sentimental rationale to treat others in a just way. When the Christ came, he championed this same rule of justice and His Church followed in His footsteps, infecting Western civilization with these previously foreign concepts. Thus, the Western world is founded on Judeo-Christian values.

Of course, the Church has not always succeeded (or succeeded immediately) in carrying out these forms of justice. One reason for this is that it has been difficult historically to always distinguish those who are the recipients of “the righteousness that comes by faith” from the recipients of a cultural tradition to which they only pay lip service. In other words, true believers are often hard to distinguish from those who only pay lip service as a cultural tradition. But as a whole, the marks of the Judeo-Christian tradition of justice have yielded the most humane, civilized, and just society known to mankind. For that we ought not make any apology. We should simply contrast it with those who rejected this tradition in order to form their own “just societies”, and the 20th century abounded with them. Standing out above all others would have to be the USSR and China, both of which thought some sort of functional society could be founded apart from individual righteousness, and both of which resulted in abominations.

This standard of justice also means that we must treat others as responsible moral agents, since they are the image of God. There is no injustice in refusing to feed a lazy man who refuses to work, or in holding a drunk driver responsible for causing an accident. True justice is more complicated than simply giving people what they want because what people want is often contrary to the intent for which they were created. If we are to treat people as the image of God, we must acknowledge that there is a transcendent truth governing the reality of man’s existence. Outside of that ideal there is no moral travesty that mankind will not perpetrate on each other, as evidenced by the secular societies of the 20th century.

Justice, Cowardice, and Racism

In light of the recent events in our country, it is good and appropriate to publicly declare the biblical teaching on those issues which regularly fall under the heading of justice and race. The ideals must be proclaimed though the reality may fall short, for without ideals we have no target, no goal, no direction. This is not hypocrisy, but the reality of sinners who are still in progress. It is clear that after decades of attempts at “racial reconciliation”, the world is in a giant mess and in need of a better way. It is our prayer that the Church can be an example of that better way.

white Good News Is Coming paper on wall


One reason we are in the mess we are in today is because of cowardice. To say what is acceptable only requires a coward. To declare what is true requires courage, because truth cuts on two sides and often severs one from the popularity of the world. The same cowardice that prevented preachers from declaring truth in the 20th century is the same cowardice that preachers of the 21st century hide behind. Too many lies have been told, and too many lies are being told. If a man is only willing to say what will not offend the sensibilities of the world, he is not worthy to represent Christ. We must stop lying to each other.

But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds. And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.

Colossians 3:8-10

The cowardice of the 20th century was the refusal to acknowledge that in Christ, there is no bond or free, no Scythian or Barbarian, no circumcised and uncircumcised, but Christ is all in all. The refusal to identify more closely with a brother in Christ with black skin than an infidel with white skin was a terrible failure to live out the gospel. The church’s failure to break with culture and receive – in the full glory and beauty of that word – black brothers and sisters is the reason why the church is not shining like a city on a hill today.

The cowardice of the 21st century is to go along with the politically correct narrative used by politicians, race baiters, and leftist idealogues that only serves to pit women against men, white against black, and rich against poor. The sociologists demand a statistic and the politicians demand a voting block, but we preach Christ crucified: to the sociologists a myth and to the politicians a mystery. Cowardice still runs deep in our churches as we hide behind our whiteness in our refusal to address every lost soul as a marred image of God in need of redemption when apart from the perfect, infallible Word of God, not one of us is fit to offer one bit of counsel in any circumstance of life. We are not peddlers of social conventions or traders of philosophical fads, but heralds of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ and woe to the preacher who thinks that there is salvation in any other. Woe to the preacher who refuses to preach.

Cowardice got us into this mess and cowardice will not get us out of this mess. Refusing to speak truth because it was unpopular led us to this and refusing to speak the truth now because it is still unpopular will not lead us out. We do not apologize for the Truth. That means I cannot keep silent because I fear being insensitive, or tone deaf, or lacking in empathy. Perhaps if I have the courage to speak truth, someone might have the courage to speak it back to me.

Not A Skin Problem

Sin does not start in the skin, live in the skin, or grow in the skin. To attribute sin to the color of one’s skin is to deny the truth that there are only 2 races: those in Adam and those in Christ. We cannot repent of our skin, but we can repent of our sin. And repent we must, because we have all fallen short of the glory of God. That means that black sinners need to repent and white sinners need to repent, and the difference in the color of their skin matters not in comparison to their mutual need for holiness, without which no man will see God.

Justice is a real thing, and God is full of it. In recent days we have seen justice violated by those with badges and those with brands of fire. But no one has violated God’s sense of justice because of the color of their skin. You have to go much deeper than that to find the cause of sin, which is bound up in man’s rebellious and desperately wicked heart. The world separates by black and white, but all liars and murders are actually of their father, the devil, and Christ was manifested to destroy the works of the devil.

And since skin is not the problem, skin cannot be the solution. Which is why all secular attempts at reconciliation have failed, because secularists can’t seem to get beyond the color of skin and down to the heart. At the end of the day there is no way of putting to death the enmity between those who are “foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). A greater justice requires a greater solution than skin can offer. It requires blood.

Wrath and Blood

The anger, hatred, and malice in the world today is a pittance compared to the wrath of a Holy God. We pick and choose the sins over which we will get worked up, but God is angry with the wicked every day. It is only the long-suffering of the Lord that restrains his judgment. But His judgment was not held back on the day He judged sin at the cross, where the blood of His Son flowed freely so that those who were slaves to sin could be freed by it. Only the blood of Jesus Christ covers sin, and the blood of Jesus Christ washes every sin. Racism is not exempt. The same blood that can cleanse the sin of Derek Chauvin is the same blood that can cleanse the violence of the mob.

There is no end to the hatred of the world. There is no satisfaction. The blood of Derek Chauvin will not quench it. Even if justice is meted to the full extent of the law, the recriminations continue in an endless cycle of bitterness. That’s why the world is failing at reconciliation. That’s why no matter how much legislation is passed and how many buildings are torched and how much blood is shed, there will never be an end to it. But what is impossible with man is possible with God. Who could have imagined the fellowship of the Jews with the Gentiles? And yet Christ knocked down that wall.

There is too much sin in our past, too much sin in our present, and too much sin our future for us to even comprehend, much less atone for. I don’t write those words flippantly, but in sorrow and grief that weighs on my heart as hot tears hit my keyboard. There is simply too much sin for me to handle. So atonement was provided and wrath was propitiated by another on our behalf, because we were insufficient for such a thing. And because we are now reconciled to God, we can be reconciled to each other. This is the only basis of reconciliation with eternal potential. Again, apart from the cross there will be no peace.

The Gospel

So there is one solution and only one solution to the sin that is in the world, and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. But it’s not as though the gospel is this placard you hang in your church foyer. The gospel is a life altering message that actually does alter you. The gospel has feet and the gospel has hands and the gospel breathes joy and life into a world of death and darkness. How beautiful on the mountain are the feet of him who brings good news! Where will the gospel take you? Who will you reach out to? What light and joy will you carry into death and darkness? The gospel is the ministry of reconciliation and it has been given to us as ambassadors to carry forth. We are ambassadors, which means we have a side. We are for something. And we are not on the side of the whites or on the sides of the blacks, but on the side of the Lord Jesus Christ who is gave Himself for sinners of every tribe, nation and tongue.


I recognize that this does not address the messy specifics of any one situation. But it is the truth that keeps our compass steady as we live in a tumultuous world. Believing this equips us to handle that world. For too long the church has followed. We have baptized talking points with Christian jargon and pretended we were saying something real. We must stop following and start leading.