What is Justice?

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I really enjoy police and lawyer procedural dramas. Honestly, I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer or a judge, so watching these hard-working, diligent individuals pursue justice is always exciting to me. Watching them find a bad guy and put them behind bars is just so satisfying. I feel like I can live vicariously through these characters for just a few moments, without having to be in the danger zone—it’s a win-win!

While these shows can be fun and entertaining, they show just how drastically different our view of justice is from the Lord’s.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 (NIV)

Micah 6:8 is one of those verses that has puzzled me for years, so I’m finally really digging into it in an attempt to reconcile the seeming contradiction on the face of this verse. In his book Advocates: The Narrow Path to Racial Reconciliation, Dhati Lewis focuses a lot on this subject and has helped me better understand this verse among others. In it, he writes, “…God will show mercy because he is a God of justice. The two are not in conflict… Mercy can only be part of justice if justice is primarily about the restoration of relationships.” (p. xxiii)

God’s M.O. is the restoration of relationships, so why wouldn’t justice have the exact same end goal?

A few months ago, I listened to an episode of a podcast that focused on the topic of justice reform. Our prison system in the US is filled to overflowing and many people are suffering simply because of the state of the facilities they are housed in. Some communities have launched programs to try and curb the number of inmates that are being incarcerated, especially juveniles. One such program connects young people who qualify with those whom they have harmed so that restoration can potentially happen instead of punishment.

At first, when I heard about this, my initial reaction was anger—my first thought was “that’s not justice”. But then I stopped myself, realizing just how warped my sense of justice had become. These attempts at restoration and forgiveness look so much more like Jesus than the punitive court system that I had come to associate with justice.

Obviously, I believe that punishment has its place and that we all must accept the consequences of our actions. But I believe that our view of justice has become one of punishment and payment instead of life-change and restoration of relationship.

Justice isn’t something that is only doled out in courtrooms, but is something that we weigh every day of our lives. How many times have we withheld forgiveness or relationship from someone because we think they deserve to pay for what they’ve done to us? I know that I do this more often than I care to admit.

If injustice severs relationship, then justice pursues restoration.

I wonder how the world would look if we lived out Jesus’s definition of justice instead of our own. How could we change our communities, families, and churches if we dared to do justice daily? It’s not going to be easy or comfortable, but I hope and pray that we’re willing to give it a try.

How do you define justice?

Do you think that justice looks like Jesus?

To go Deeper: Read What Does Justice Look Like? , The Worst Meal Ever Eaten
Check out Advocates: The Narrow Path to Racial Reconciliation

Disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 


  1. I love that you tackling these things. If you message the organization I work with, Administer Justice, you be one of the people to receive a free copy of the book written by our Executive Director, Bruce Strom, Gospel Justice, that describes his journey from senior partner in his own well established law firm to opening a legal aid clinic that has now been reproduced 100 times around the country. https://www.facebook.com/administer.justice/

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