Hell is the Place of Justice

I’m not a fan of justice. That makes me sound amoral and seems to set me at odds with the Jesus I call, Savior. I submit to you that Jesus was no trumpeter of justice either. In fact, I think justice reigns in hell.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

I think we have a problem here.

Do you remember the parable of the unforgiving servant? An indebted servant was brought to the king to pay his debt. Fully unable to redeem himself, the king ordered the servant to be sold along with his wife and family. The servant groveled before his master, begging to be given one more chance. “Please, please be patient and I will pay you back every single penny.”

How the servant must have staggered at the response. I imagine that he had to be helped up off the ground, so astounded was he by the mercy extended toward him.

“I forgive you all your debt. You owe me nothing.” However, his good mood was short-lived when he came upon a fellow servant who owed him a meager amount. “YOU OWE ME!”

When the tables were flipped and the first servant was in a position of power, he demanded justice. 

Consider this equation.

INJUSTICE  = JUSTICE

There’s no solution. For the most part, society operates on a system of justice. Crimes deserve punishment. Debts require payment. There’s a sense of getting even in justice. It’s like a scale. If justice is meted out in equal measure to an injustice, then we are pleased. But do we really want to spend the rest of our lives struggling to balance the equation? Is it desirable to constantly be teetering back and forth between good and evil?

What we really long for is come to a full balance of justice. We would love to land fully on the side of justice such that our fears of being offended or of being the victim of injustice are never realized. What can we apply to injustice to equal justice?

INJUSTICE + MERCY = JUSTICE

The cross of Christ was God’s ultimate display of injustice and God’s ultimate display of mercy. The consequence is JUSTICE, a justice turned on its head. The perfect man, Jesus Christ was unjustly punished for man’s offenses toward God. The only justice that God could give man, prior to the cross, was hell. And so, God applied mercy to our sins. In one action, God applied injustice to Jesus and mercy to mankind. Now, we live in the shadow of justice.

God has been paid in full for all our sins. Like the first servant in the story, man has been redeemed from his debt in a cosmic display of mercy.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

Justice has been turned on its head. God’s expression of mercy changes what justice is for us. It is now JUST for us to show MERCY, for that is what was shown toward us. However, in our world, this kind of mercy leaves Christians looking like a doormat. We can only let this mercy alter our understanding of justice as we walk in humility. To live justly, we must walk humbly with our God who teaches us mercy. 

Does Mercy Truly Triumph Over Judgement?

Talk of injustice brings to mind apartheid, racism and lawful matters. It makes us think of courts and authority and right versus wrong. When a hurricane is hurling toward our doorsteps, we usually don’t stop to wonder about the justice of its attack.

My husband and I didn’t respond to Hurricane Sandy with the prescribed panic and preparations. I didn’t buy any extra batteries, water or canned food. We didn’t board up our windows or batten down hatches. In fact, the only thing I was concerned about was whether or not we would lose power.

During the freakish summer storm that caught most of the east coast by surprise, we lost power for about 2 days. With heat indices topping 110 degrees, we lay motionless in our basement complaining mildly. It’s a terrible inconvenience to not be able to make my morning coffee, dry my hair, do the laundry or watch TV. So as Sandy came, I dreaded another few dimly lit days.

Sandy rattled our windows and threatened to toss the neighbor’s trees into our roof, all day long. Suddenly I thought of a little old maI see almost everyday on my dog walks. He sits serenely on a wooden bench in the shade beside the public library. Usually, he is surrounded by newspapers and a couple of small, flattened boxes. He’s always dressed in the same brown, mid-weight coat, black pants and plain shoes. I don’t think he speaks English, because when I nod politely and murmur, “Hello,” he just looks simply back at me.

What startles me every time is the shine in his eyes. Blackest black, they glisten and glint in the morning light. The sparkle belies what I wonder about his situation: is he homeless, hungry, hot or cold? Does anyone know he’s out here everyday and does he have any family?

One quick dash to our mailbox that afternoon, proved that Sandy was ushering in winter. The temperature had dropped to low 40s and wind whipped, slapped and stung as it played pingpong with raindrops. I wondered, Is he out there in this? Was he out there this summer?

The next morning, my dog and I hustled down our usual route past the library, and there he stood in the narrow doorway, hands stuffed deeply into his pockets, elbows locked defensively at his sides. His chin was down as if he could disappear inside his coat collar.

Impulsively, I ran down the hill toward the library and pulled what little cash I had from my pockets. “Here,” I said. “Please, go get something warm to eat or drink.”

At first he wouldn’t take the money from my hands, but I stood for a second, really wondering what to do. He didn’t answer me either. Finally, both brittle cold hands wrapped around my own, and cupped the money then slid away, concealing the bills. I touched his arm and said, “God bless you.” Then hurried away.

I was fortunate to show the man mercy, but what about justice? Is it just that I will finish my walk, shed my layers and curl up on the couch beside a husband who loves me? Is it just that even if he manages to get a hot meal and a pair of gloves, tomorrow he’ll be right where I saw him today? Is it just?

That day, my heart began to simmer in my chest. I wondered helplessly, at first, What could I possibly do? The next day, I got a sweet letter from the child we sponsor through Compassion International. Innocently, she asked about my life, but what could I reply?

Is it just that she is an orphan? Is it just that her lot in life is to scrap and save and rely on mercy just to live; while I enjoy variety in my food, advanced education, warmth and relative comfort?

“He has shown thee oh man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you, but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

It’s just like the Lord to leave me without excuses. Through the volunteer coordinate from another organization, I recently learned about a group called FACETS that reaches out to the homeless specifically. Starting in just a few weeks, they will begin a special program to prevent hypothermia among the homeless in our county. I called immediately and was put to work the next day.

James says, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” Despite the social urge to do something about these injustices, judgement cannot reconcile innate discrepancies. Romans 12:1 tells us that God has shown us great mercy. To live out this mercy, to be a conduit from God’s heart to an unjust world, this will triumph.