God is Just
At the heart of God’s character, He is just, which means in a world of crookedness, He is entirely upright. He is the originator, the sustainer, and the fulfillment of justice. Deuteronomy 32:4 says, “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” In His nature, God is just and acts justly. He is serious about justice. In Isaiah 58, God called out the Israelites for focusing on the practice of fasting more than on working for justice and mercy for others. We cannot let our personal journeys of faith overshadow the needs of others. Both are equally important. In verse 6, we see the type of “fast” God chooses: “to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke.”
Psalm 45:7 tells us that God hates wickedness. Injustice is wickedness. God hates injustice and the evils it entails, and He loves justice, for it is good. Gary Haugen, the CEO and founder of IJM, defines the sin of injustice as this: “the abuse of power—abusing power by taking from others the good things that God intended for them, namely, their life, liberty, dignity, or the fruits of their love or their labor.”
God's Response to Injustice
Because injustice is evil and against God’s character, He hates it and fights for those who have fallen victim to it. Psalm 12:5 says, “Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the Lord. “I will protect them from those who malign them” (NIV). The first way God responds to justice is through His compassion. In Latin, compassion means “to suffer with.” And because our God is full of compassion (Psalm 116:5), He is near to those who suffer from injustice and feels their pain.
The second way God responds to injustice is through his wrath (Romans 1:18). God is not indifferent toward injustice. Aren’t you glad? Instead, He responds with righteous anger and judgment. He is not passive toward injustice. To believe He is God and follow Him, we need Him to have wrath toward injustice because it shows us that He is loving. How could He be loving if injustice didn’t anger Him and produce His wrath? We need God to be just. Simultaneously, it is important to remember that no one, not even the one who commits injustice, is outside the mercy and grace of God.
The third way God responds to injustice is through rescue. Psalm 10:17–18 says, “O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.” With this, we see that God is not only angered and saddened by injustice but He desires to do something about it: rescue. Upon Christ’s return, He will fully make all things wrong, right. Until then, He has called us—followers of Christ—to be defenders of justice and partner with Him to live out His heart for setting others free. When we understand who God is and what He cares about, we can be encouraged to care about the same things. Isaiah 1:17 calls us to “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow” (NIV). For followers of Christ, justice is our call, our work, because it is crucial to the heart of God. We get to bring the light of Jesus into the darkness of injustice, bringing the hope of the gospel.
The Justice of the Cross
The cross of Christ is a powerful and poignant reminder of God’s just character. Paul reminds us in Romans 6:23 that “the wages of sin is death.” Since every human has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), the just payment for the sins we have committed is death. God could not turn a blind eye toward sin because it is directly against His good, righteous, loving, and just character. Either we experience an eternal death separated from God forever, paying the just penalty for our sin, or Jesus—the eternal, perfect Son of God— lives a holy life, dies to satisfy God’s wrath toward sin, pays the just penalty sin deserves, and rises again defeating sin, death, and Satan forever. Romans 4:25 says it was Jesus “who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” The resurrection of Jesus justifies us—makes us upright—before God. Because of the mercy of God, we do not receive the just penalty of our sin, but rather Jesus satisfied God’s wrath and justice toward our sin so we might have eternal life. Through this God proves Himself to be the righteous judge over all things and enacts His justice throughout the world.