“Justice!” is the plea of the victim. Whenever we have been unfairly treated, abused, or exploited we demand action to correct the injustice. When our rights are infringed, or a law transgressed, that results in hurt or actual injury, we expect others (most likely the government) to come to our aid and exact justice on the offender(s).
On the other hand, when we have offended, we are not so quick to demand or desire justice. Speaking from a judge perspective, I love to hear an offender say “I was wrong, deserve punishment, and I ask for mercy.” Making that statement is harder to do than you would think. For those of us who haven’t had to face the choice of how we plead before the court, we may shake our heads at the inability of a defendant to just admit his wrong. In fact, our justice system allows a defendant to avoid an open admission of guilt by entering a plea of no contest. The plea means that no guilt is admitted, just that the defendant believes it is in his best interest to waive a trial and submit to the court for sentencing.
Truthfully, though, what I hear in court at a sentencing hearing is what all of us (including yours truly) often say to ourselves, and others, when we fail. “It’s not my fault; it was an accident that could have happened to anybody… I wasn’t the only one speeding, or illegally parking, etc… I was raised in a dysfunctional family, or I was hanging around with the wrong crowd, or that’s just my personality… They treated me badly, so I was just giving them some of their own medicine.” And so on. It really is difficult for us to confess guilt without some kind of excuse or rationalization.
God does not accept a no contest plea. I doubt He needs to hear our excuses or rationalizations. God expects us to honestly face up to our wrongful actions and humbly ask for justice.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 1:8 – 2:2)
We can confidently ask for justice, because Jesus has satisfied the requirements of God’s perfect justice on our behalf. In Jesus’ victory over death and sin, we can find justice and mercy. We can face our guilt and our Judge with honesty. We can shout “hosanna” to our savior King, the source of our pardon and mercy from all of our failings. Of course, that confidence is gained, in part, by paying attention to Peter’s answer to the crowd on Pentecost when they asked how they could resolve the issue of justice for their wrongs.
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:37–39)
In our imperfect justice system, an imperfect judge (me!) metes out justice as best he can. This imperfect judge appreciates a person who presents a repentant attitude. However, I am unable to actually discern the sincerity of someone’s heart, unlike our perfect Judge. He loves a humble and repentant heart. Peter told the crowd that God has provided a gift, above all gifts, for those repentant hearts who desire to follow the One who was victorious over death.
Sunday is coming. Our world looks at the calendar today and sees the day designated as “Good Friday”. It is good, not because an offender was brought to justice, but because an innocent bore the ultimate punishment for you, your children and all other offenders who are far off. Sunday is coming!