The Evangelical Universalist Forum

What is justice?


In this article, in which I quote George MacDonald, I talk about how justice and love are interlinked.


I added something on Les Miserables and this to the OP: If I was to make a definition for justice, it would be: to remove as far as possible forces of injustice (like unfairness) that encourage wrongdoing and to offer (not force) redemption once wrongdoing has been committed.


Yes, I can tell you’ve been reading GMD. And I agree that “justice” means “fairness.” It is unfortunate that so many, when they read about justice in the Bible, almost instantly think of it as "punishment."


You’re welcome! It’s understandable that people think of punishment when they read the Bible because unfortunately that is what many humans associate justice with. Sadly, it is a common, probably the most common view in society. This flawed human perspective is then read into the Bible.

There’s a chap on the r/cruciformity group who introduced me to GMD. What a remarkable individual to have such insights! I confess I have only read a little and typically discover more when I stumble across GMD’s quotes in articles. I wish I had more time to read, but for various reasons, I have very very little.


If you read nothing else from GMD, I suggest that you take the time to read "Unspoken Sermons, Series III.
Here are the topics in that book:

The Creation in Christ
The Knowing of the Son
The Mirrors of the Lord
The Truth
The Displeasure of Jesus
The Final Unmasking
The Inheritance


You know, I wonder if MacDonald’s first sermon in Unspoken Sermons is a barrier to people. It is quite hard to follow. I personally think people start with, get lost and put the book back on the shelf indefinitely. Not that it isn’t good, but certainly doesn’t have the pull that the remaining 35 sermons have.


Thanks alot for this list!


Injustice= corruption, cruelty, tyranny, discrimination, crime , sin, wrongdoing, misconduct etc.etc.

Mcarans, I’m just curious as to what your statement entails. How do we remove all forces of injustice that encourage wrong doing? From what I understand, God already offers redemption from sin. As Isaiah 1:16-17 says, Cease to do evil, learn to do good, and though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow. And if we refuse to change, then what? There are unpleasant consequences that occur as a result of our sinful actions. That’s the way God made it.


Dear Paidion: over 30 years ago the Spirit of the Lord moved upon me in waves of glory. In that experience He spoke six words deep into me regarding the Lake of Fire. Little did I know then that 100 years earlier George MacDonald articulated the exact thing in the consuming fire unspoken sermon.

The Consuming Fire


What were the six words if you don’t mind me asking?


Many of the forces of injustice are societal - resolving them may involve anything from the emancipation of minorities to the redistribution of wealth. Our Anglo-Saxon hyper-individualism (which frankly often traverses into self-centredness) blinds us to systemic problems in society like institutional racism which can’t be addressed solely on an individual basis. These systemic injustices act as a catalyst for wrongdoing.


GMac is such a singular man. He suffered much, and it shows in his quiet, loving, humble wisdom. You can find all of his unspoken sermons (there are three series) on audiobooks for no charge. That way, if your work is conducive to doing so, you can listen and plow at the same time.

Regarding justice, it’s a favorite topic of mine. Dikiasune, which Jason says means “fair togetherness.” (I’m never quite sure of the spelling.) Whether or not one strictly agrees with that translation, I think it’s apropos and helpful. If I justify a document, I line up both margins so they’re straight and consistent throughout the page. I think that’s a great analogy. In this life things are so often uneven. Some of us have more advantages and others have so few. One person may suffer much and grow from her experiences and another may have every earthly blessing and grow smug and entitled (like Job’s friends who assumed that God must be punishing him for some undisclosed sin).

Our bibles frequently translate a description of Joseph (Mary’s husband) as “being a just man…” This could equally consistently be rendered “being a merciful man” (which in context makes more sense to us English speakers who so tenaciously associate “justice” with punishment.) Justice certainly may make use of punishment as a means of bringing about “fair-togetherness,” but punishment is not, in itself, justice in the biblical sense. It is a tool to bring about justice—not the only tool, either, and certainly not the thing itself. Justice is “making things right.” Humans cannot always or even often accomplish that wonderful consummation. We can punish the murderer but we cannot restore the murdered man to this life. We can restore the stolen goods, but to repair the damaged relationship between the perpetrator and the victim is too often beyond our ability. Only God can bring about true justice. Only God can (and will) make all things right.

Meantime we His children should abstain from associating our poor attempts at justice (in a limiting sense) with His divine ability to do all things, restore and glorify all relationships and make ALL things good.

Justice is a favorite soapbox of mine. It was (to me) such a wonderful revelation to (begin to) understand this concept. Most of us (all of us, most likely) have such a severely limited understanding of the idea of true justice. We have too often made it into a hopeless thing when (though truly it may be a fearful thing) it is in fact a manifestation of God’s unrelenting, inescapable love. You might enjoy Tom Talbot’s uplifting and profound book, “The Inescapable Love of God.” It is among my lifetime favorites.


Dear Mcarans: After you have read the consuming fire you should be able to grasp what the Spirit spoke to me years ago. I will not disclose the 6 words but I will express that the Lake of Fire radiates with theion rooted in Theos. Are you glad you asked?


No offense mcarans, but your response seems a bit discriminatory. The world’s problems are not all caused by Anglo-Saxon hyper-individualism as you put it. People can be biased towards anything and anyone; men against women, women against men, this religion against that religion, rich against poor, poor against rich, this race against that race, and so on and so forth.
I hear some groups demanding reparations for all the injustices done to their ancestors. If we give reparations to one group, isn’t this discrimination? All of our ancestors suffered injustices in some way or another. The Law already exists. The Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule have been known since the beginning of time. What you seem to be suggesting has already been tried many times. As Isaiah says, we add “law upon law, upon law, precept upon precept” in an attempt to make everything right until no one can move and even breathing becomes a crime. I agree with Cindy, only God can make all things right.

As an added note: in Exodus 23:1-9 Moses has this to say about justice, " You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice. You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute. If you meet am enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him. if you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under it’s burden, you should surely help him with it. You shall not pervert the judgment of your poor in his dispute. Keep yourself far from a false matter; do not kill the innocent or the righteous. For I will not justify the wicked. And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the discerning and perverts the words of the righteous. Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt


When I referred to Anglo-Saxon, I wasn’t referring to race but countries (ie. US, UK, Australia, NZ, Canada) which have similar individualistic societies. I think there is an incompatibility between professing that as Christians, we are compelled as individuals to help the poor and opposing anything that wider society does to try to help the poor.


Thank you for your suggestions and expounding your idea of justice. I agree that we have an imperfect understanding of justice and I’d argue that it’s because we tend to equate justice with punishment without considering the wider goal of making things right.


Thank you Cindy for an excellent post. Because it’s so good, I fear forced into being picky. I get the impression that you think “δικαιοσυνη” (dikaiosunā) means “justice.” Actually it means “righteousness” and is
so translated in every version I know.


:blush: I do tend to conflate the two. I’m not sure that justice, righteousness and mercy have a whole lot of space separating them in most instances. I tend to think of them as almost synonymous (though not quite) and that tends toward unwarranted carelessness in me. Thanks for pointing it out… accuracy does matter. And thanks for your graciousness.


…The God-as-Judge viewpoint does not present a biblical picture of what divine justice is about at all, but is a legalistic perspective that comes from human culture. Biblically, to “bring justice” does not mean to bring punishment, but to bring healing and reconciliation. Justice means to make things right. Throughout the Prophets justice is associated with caring for others, as something that is not in conflict with mercy, but rather an expression of it. Divine justice is God’s saving action at work for all that are oppressed, as the following verses demonstrate:

Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow (Isaiah 1:17). Note what happens when one does right by seeking justice. The oppressed are encouraged and the helpless are helped.

This is what the LORD says: "`Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed (Jeremiah 21:12). Justice is done when the oppressed is rescued.

This is what the LORD Almighty says: `Administer true justice: show mercy and compassion to one another (Zechariah 7:9). How does one administer true justice? By showing mercy and compassion to everybody involved.

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice (Isaiah 30:18). What is the reason our Lord wants to be gracious to us? Because He is just.

If we want to understand the concept of justice as the writers of the Old Testament did, then we must see it as a “setting things right again.” There is no conflict between God’s justice and His mercy. They both flow from His love…

(From “Divine Justice And Grace” by “grace teacher” Steve McVey.)