Can love and justice work in harmony? Justice is giving people what they deserve based on what is right, fair, or appropriate. Justice declares what is right and holds everyone to that set of standards.
Love can be defined in many ways. Love is a commitment to the welfare of another person and to the enjoyment of who someone is and/or a commitment to help them become what they can be.
Picture this very real scenario: An intruder breaks into your house and takes the life of someone in your family. The man is incarcerated and put on trial where his guilt of this brutal crime is proven. He stands before the judge who is supposed to dispense justice in the matter. You are in the courtroom awaiting with great anticipation the judge’s punishment to be placed on this man for this his crime. Before the judge rules the offender gives a statement in which he acknowledges his guilt, indicates he is usually not inclined to breaking the law and is really a good man at heart. He lists many things he has done that are good, including helping orphaned children, making donations to the poor, and performing many acts of community service. He says he is sorry for his “mistake” and appeals to the judge to be a “good” judge, a “kind and loving” judge and to let him go.
The judge shockingly agrees to let him go. He says the man had not committed this crime before, and he believes the man that he is in general a good person. Furthermore, he is impressed by all the good deeds the man has done. The judge in fact is a very compassionate and loving judge, and so he in his “goodness” decides to let the man go as long as he promises not to do it again. What would your response be as you heard the judgment? Would you think this judge is “good?”
In fact, that judge is not “good” by letting a criminal go without punishment. If this was the norm in our society, crime would be even more rampant. The judge can be concerned with the welfare of the criminal, but he would not be just if he did not appropriately deal with the crime. You would be furious that this man could commit such a heinous crime and go free with no consequence. You would also be angry that the judge did not give you and your family justice for the tragic loss of a loved member of your family.
God is good, and God is loving. God’s goodness and love does not mean that He will not deal harshly with sin. In fact, God is good because He hates sin and does deal justly with it. God hates sin so much that in His perfection He must pour out the fullness of His wrath against what is against His nature. God dispenses an infinite judgment against crimes against an infinitely powerful and perfect God. God is “good” to deal with our sin.
The question then becomes, “Can God be committed to love us and have our welfare as a priority and yet still deal justly with our sinful disobedience to him?” and “Can God punish our sin and still rescue the sinner?” Many people think that if God is “good” then he will overlook our sin, and in His kindness He will let the sinner go unpunished. They think they will go to heaven because they have done a lot of “good” things, and the amount of good they have done outweighs the bad. Also, a person may say he will go to heaven even if he has committed wrong because a loving God would never send anybody to hell. It is true God, in His love, does not want people to go to hell. God’s justice demands there be a punishment for sin.
However, we fully believe God loves us and wants us to be with Him forever. There is a dilemma here that cannot be solved by man, but God has a solution. God provided a way for the sins of men to be punished and at the same time for the one committing the crime to be declared innocent.
Jesus was declared guilty of our sin, and in turn credited to our lives his perfection. Therefore, by grace through faith fellowship with God our relationship restored and we are counted as worthy to spend forever with God. It was only at the cross where God accomplished this. Galatians 3:10 states, “‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.’ Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law….”
We see that if we are not completely perfect in our actions, thoughts, and nature, we are in fact cursed. The Bible says we are children of wrath and sons of disobedience because we have failed to live to God’s standard. Fortunately, Galatians continues, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us-for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’” God punished our sin fully by placing it on His own Son. He paid our fine for us in full by shedding his blood on the cross. We in turn are completely forgiven and declared innocent of the crimes we committed if we accept Jesus as a substitute and declare Him our Lord, seeking to live for Him with a life of thanks. Our salvation is a free gift for us, but it was not free. At the cross God’s justice and love met.
“God demonstrates his love for us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8.)”