God is a just judge
Dec 14, 2009
from the post by Perennial Student:
Every church I have been part of since I was converted at age fourteen has clearly taught that justice means that God has to punish sin. We receive forgiveness only because the punishment we deserve was suffered by Jesus in our place.
This was a doctrine my mother hated. To her, that was the opposite of justice, for an innocent man to suffer in the place of the guilty, even if it was voluntary on his part. But she agreed that justice meant that people must bear the consequences of their mistakes. In this life, that meant one suffered the consequences of poor choices. After death, it meant reincarnation (or possibly transmigration) in order to continue working on problems left unresolved in the previous life.
I don’t remember ever hearing, until sometime in the past several years, the idea that justice might be seen in a significantly different way. At some point I read that the Hebrew notion of justice (what we see in the Old Testament) was not about punishment for wrongdoing so much as about wholeness, not just of the individual but of the entire community. Of course, there are a lot of different ideas out there when it comes to Bible interpretation, and I really didn’t know just how much validity this idea had....
Restorative justice recognizes that crime harms people. It does not simply break a law. The justice system should aim to repair these injuries. Crime is also more than a matter between the government and an individual offender. Since crime victims and the community bear the brunt of crime, they, too, must be actively involved in the criminal justice process.
Their website also explains that restorative justice is not a new idea, but one that has its roots in Scripture, as well as being found in various cultures around the world. I know that Mosaic law requires restitution as the means to deal with a variety of offenses. I don’t know specifically what other aspects of restorative justice are included. So I started looking for more information on the Hebrew notion of justice.
One website explains it this way:
One word for justice in Hebrew is zedakah. The concept of justice in Judaism is different from Greek-Western views of this concept. The emphasis is not on “retribution” (punishment) or “distribution” (fair shares for all). It is more what human living should be like. That is why the word zedakah is not only translated into English as justice but also as righteousness, which means living a just life personally.
Another website discusses the meaning of the other word, mishpat, which is often translated as “justice.” Mishpat “is an obligation to do whatever is necessary to increase the quality of a person’s welfare. It is synonymous with ‘holiness,’ and is closely related to such concepts as ‘mercy,’ ‘grace,’ ‘peace,’ and ‘redemption.’”
....So God is just, in all the meanings of the word. And now I realize I haven’t even begun to look at what it means to say God is a Judge. I do know that judges in Hebrew society were different from judges in our American society. But at 10:35 at night, and with a thousand words in this post already, I’m not going to start in on another word study. I’ll simply end with a verse which tells us that God is a Just Judge.
He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice. (Psalm 9:8)