Too often, justice seems imperfect and enforcement uneven. Today’s column explores how a deeper, more spiritual perspective of what constitutes justice puts us in a position to not only expect justice but see it expressed more often.
“Life isn’t fair.” It’s a pretty common statement, and too often true. But why isn’t life fair? Why do we see so much evidence of imperfect justice and uneven enforcement?
It’s pretty clear that our systems of law don’t ensure justice. As a matter of fact, history affords plenty of evidence that the law can even deprive people of justice.
A number of years ago, I was impaneled on a jury of 14 citizens (12 jurors and 2 alternates) and assigned to hear a case. After the evidence was presented and the lawyers had finished their statements, the judge addressed the jury and read the specific rule of law that he said we were to apply in reaching our verdict. It seemed to me that the law didn’t fit the situation. I felt we were being asked to achieve a just outcome with a law that would actually preclude us from doing so.
I was beginning to feel a real crisis of integrity, and as we left the courtroom for the jury deliberation room, I asked the bailiff if he could replace me with one of the alternates. He informed me that I would be held in contempt if I left the courthouse, so I reluctantly joined the other jurors. It was an unhappy task, but we followed the judge’s instructions and rendered the verdict prescribed by the law.
When the proceedings concluded and we were released, I asked the judge why he felt we had been unable to be fairer that morning. He was patient and polite and answered simply, “It would have set a bad precedent.”
This unsatisfying experience prompted me to think more deeply about justice – to consider exactly what justice is and where to find it.
For instance, I began to realize that justice is really a spiritual concept, an unassailable power. Christian Science explains that there is a law of God that is perfect, unchanging, and impartial, and it transcends human law, standing on wisdom, mercy, goodness, etc., which are direct attributes of God. As one of these attributes, justice provides a standard against which we can measure our laws and our actions. Justice suggests rightness, fairness, impartiality, evenhandedness, honesty, integrity, and validity. There’s no room in justice for petty concerns or selfish influence.
A phrase written by Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy more than 100 years ago stood out to me and has intrigued me ever since: “Justice waits, and is used to waiting; and right wins the everlasting victory” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 277). Because true justice is an eternal concept, it does not evolve with changing standards and customs. Justice is firm. Equally encouraging, nothing unjust can last, because injustice is the opposite of God and as such has no solid basis or permanence. Eventually it will be overturned. Mrs. Eddy explains in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “Right adjusts the balance sooner or later” (p. 449).
As logical as it might seem to look for perfect justice within the justice system, I’ve come to realize it won’t be found there. Human institutions should and do express justice, but the only way to find perfect justice is to look into what the Bible calls “the perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25), the law of God. This divine law has an unlimited potential for good, and it can correct any situation if we seek justice and find it in divine Spirit, God.
At any time when injustice might seem to prevail, I feel it is my job, everyone’s job, to hold to this model of perfect justice, to acknowledge its reality, its supremacy, its permanence and power. This puts us in a position to not only expect justice but actually see it expressed more consistently on the human scene.
Adapted from an article published in the May 20, 2002, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.