Justice from a Human Perspective


Every human being has a sense of justice that develops at a very early age. If I show a cookie to a 15-month old, and don’t give it to her, she will cry. She might not be able to articulate what she is thinking, but she reacts because “it isn’t fair”. I shouldn’t show her a cookie I’m not going to give her!

Is this a primitive form of the sense of justice that we all have? Maybe.

Scientists used to believe that a sense of justice didn’t develop until age 6 or 7, but recent studies suggest our sense of justice forms much earlier than that (before we even reach the age of two).[1] The study shows that toddlers not only have a sense of justice; they are already developing nuance in their sense of justice to distinguish between lesser and greater injustices.

That sense of justice matures as we grow older. Studies show that children as young as 3 to 5 years old can already identify injustice done to others, not just themselves.[2] I think our common experience demonstrates that our sensitivity to injustice grows, develops and becomes more refined as we mature as people. We develop a sensitivity to injustices done to others, not just ourselves and the people we know.

Still, that sense of injustice is never provoked so much as when we are on the receiving end. We are never more incensed at injustice as when the injustice is done to us, our family or people with which we identify. Our sensitivity to injustice tends to get softer and less urgent when the injustice is done to people we don’t know, especially if they are people with whom we don’t easily identify.

Don’t think so? When someone from “the other party” rants about a particular injustice done to “their side”, do you feel empathetic?

We can train ourselves to be more sensitive to other people, including other people with whom we have little or nothing in common, maybe even people with whom we disagree, but it’s a lot of work!

Let’s be honest here: it’s much easier to spot the injustice done to ourselves and people with whom we identify; we are much quicker to jump to our own defense and to the defense of people with whom we identify; we don’t naturally have the same feelings for others, especially those with whom we have little or nothing in common.

These observations suggest that a person’s sense of justice is affected by his or her perspective. As we grow older, our perspective broadens and widens, and we can learn to take other people into account as our sense of justice develops, but even as mature adults our sense of justice is driven by our personal perspectives.  Continue reading “Justice from a Human Perspective”

An Exercise in Viewing Justice from God’s Perspective


In Justice from a Human Perspective, I explored the phenomenon that the vast majority of people have an inner sense of justice that is pricked every time they experience injustice themselves or by people they know and love. The very protest, “That’s not fair!” implies that the protester believes others should recognize it.

We have an innate sense of justice, and we innately feel that others should recognize the justice or injustice we see and feel. We do have have much general agreement, but the disagreements are many at the same time. Those disagreements might be attributable to our perspectives, which are limited and, therefore, subjective.

Thus, we can’t anchor an objective standard of justice in people. It must be anchored in something more immutable, like God (see Justice from God’s Perspective), but how do we know justice from God’s perspective?

I submit that we don’t… we can’t, unless He reveals it to us.

In the Bible we what purports to be a record of God’s communication and involvement in the history of men. While, I admit that we can learn something about justice in other religious books and literature, for many reasons I think the fullest and most accurate record of God’s revelation, generally, and of justice, specifically, is found in Scripture.

You might disagree with me, but stick with me as I consider the following story about Jesus that provides us some perspective on the issue.

Continue reading “An Exercise in Viewing Justice from God’s Perspective”

The Observation of an Atheist Historian: What Makes Christianity Stand Out Among World Religions


The radical quality of the love of Jesus stands out over and above all other examples. I have written on this before (the Christian expression of the Golden Rule compared to other religions). Most other world religions express some concept of the Golden Rule, but not in the way that Jesus did.

Other world religions state the Golden Rule in a limited way, such as not doing things to others that you would not want them to do to you. It’s the idea of refraining from doing evil. Under that concept of the Golden Rule, we simply need to avoid doing evil to our neighbors. There is no compulsion to do good to them. Ignoring your neighbor would be perfectly acceptable on the this principal.

Most major world religions do not express Golden Rule positively, as Jesus did: do unto others what you would have them do unto you. Doing unto others is an affirmative duty. Simply refraining from doing them evil is not the concept of the Golden Rule expressed by Jesus.

Jesus made this clear in the parable of the Good Samaritan. The parable begins with a man who was robbed and left injured on the road. A priest and Levite (the priestly cast of Judaism) walked by the man on the other side of the road, ignoring him, while a Samaritan (an outcast to Jews) crossed the road to tend to the injured man. The good Samaritan was the example of the person who demonstrated love for a “neighbor” because he didn’t just ignore the injured man lying in the road.  The idea of the Golden Rule that Jesus expressed includes an affirmative duty to do  good.

To be fair, some religions come close to an affirmative expression of the Golden Rule, which I affirm in the previous blog piece, but there is one additional expression of the Golden Rule that stands alone: that is the concept of loving even our enemies and doing good to those who intend evil toward us and do us harm.

I think of these things as I pause from listening to Douglas Murray in a discussion with Esther Riley on the Unbelievable? podcast with Justin Brierley, the host. (See Douglas Murray and Esther O’Reilly – Christian Atheism and the search for identity. The video is embedded below.)

Douglas Murray, an atheist and openly gay man, makes the observation that most Christian tenets can be found in other cultures, save one: that is the principal that of loving and forgiving even our enemies. Loving and forgiving our enemies is the ultimate statement of the Golden Rule. Even when we have enemies who intend to do us harm, and even when they actually do us harm, Jesus says, “Forgive them.” The conversation got into some recent examples of that expression of love and forgiveness that I will explore.

Continue reading “The Observation of an Atheist Historian: What Makes Christianity Stand Out Among World Religions”

The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

National Civil Rights Museum located in the old Lorraine Motel, site of the Martin Luther King, Jr assassination, in Memphis TN including the balcony on which he was shot preserved as it was on that date

I am about ready to fly back to Chicago from Phoenix, AZ after participating in my first Board Meeting of the Gospel Justice Initiative as a board member. I am humbled to be part of this group that is attempting to implement and carry out in these modern times the words of the prophet:

“What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

It’s fitting that today is Martin Luther King Day. Last night as I drove back to my hotel, I listened to a podcast interview of Frank Viola who wrote books like Pagan Christianity and his most recent book, Insurgence. He pointed out in the interview that both the Pharisees and the Sadducees had a problem with Jesus. The Pharisees were the equivalent of the conservative right today, and the Sadducees were the equivalent of the progressive left.

That resonates deeply with me as I survey the world today in and out of my social media feed. While both sides might claim Jesus in their political platforms (more or less), I have the distinct impression that they would be put off by Jesus face to face in their presence. Jesus didn’t conform to the spirit of this world. His was the kingdom of God.

Followers of Jesus, it seems to me, should reflect the character and “aroma” of Jesus. I think of these things when I remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was hated by the ultra-conservative, called a communist and scrutinized like an enemy of the state. He was also despised by the radical left who criticized him for standing in the way of real revolution, a violent takeover and overthrowing of the status quo.

I see Jesus in Martin Luther King and his legacy – not just because he didn’t sit comfortably with the far right and the far left, but because he exhibited the character and carried the aroma of Christ.

Continue reading “The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Yearning for Perfection in an Imperfect World


Have you ever felt like all you do is spin your wheels, but you don’t get anywhere? I have days and weeks like that. Sometimes, it seems my life is like that.

Imagine a people like that….

Isaiah said this of the nation of Israel (Isaiah 26:17-18 NASB):

As the pregnant woman approaches the time to give birth,
She writhes and cries out in her labor pains,
Thus were we before You, O Lord.
We were pregnant, we writhed in labor,
We gave birth, as it seems, only to wind.
We could not accomplish deliverance for the earth….

As a lawyer, I have spent a lot of time in court. I have represented many people, and I have seen our system of justice at work. I can tell you from experience that it’s far from perfect. That is being kind really.

The truth is that not just our legal system is imperfect; our lives are far from perfect. We all desire perfection, but our attempts at achieving perfection are like giving birth to the wind. Though we strive to make the world a better place, for ourselves, our loved ones and others, we haven’t been able to accomplish deliverance from the imperfections that have been the blight of human existence since time immemorial.

What are we to do?

Continue reading “Yearning for Perfection in an Imperfect World”

Giving Alms from Within

God knows the thoughts and intents of your heart already. Go ahead and give it to Him. You’ve got nothing to lose.


Jesus didn’t pull any punches, and the religious leaders were often the targets caught in his cross-hairs. One theme of his criticism was that they kept up righteous appearances while they were anything but righteous on the inside.  It’s a bit unnerving, is it not, that Jesus could see the thoughts and intents of the heart!

For those who might be tempted to say that the one person in history you would most like to meet is Jesus, maybe you should rethink that!

But then again, Jesus didn’t do anything more than God, the Father, already does. God “discerns our thoughts from afar”; He even knows every word “on my tongue” before I say them. (Psalm 139)

Think about that. Where can I go that God is not present? There is no use trying to hide from God. It’s futile to think that we can.

So, we might as well be honest. God already knows what’s going on in our heads and hearts!

Continue reading “Giving Alms from Within”

Progression of Revelation in the Bible Part 2

In the Bible, we see a progression from Law to the spirit of the law, and from law to grace, and the seeds of that progression are there in the very beginning.


In Progression of Revelation in the Bible Part 1, I made the point that the Old Testament Scriptures anticipate and point toward Jesus. Jesus said he was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. The thrust of the Scriptures from the Old Testament to the New Testament also progresses from physical to spiritual, from law to grace. I will pick up on those themes and get into the progression from law to grace in this piece.

Before doing that, though, I am taking a short sidetrack to recall an observation I made years ago as a college freshman in a world religion class. As I as I studied (and read) the Bible for the first time in my life I realized that the fabric of the Scripture, from beginning to end, is an intricately woven tapestry. I wasn’t a believer then, but I could see (as a budding English Literature major) the incredible, unlikely harmony of the Scriptures.

I say unlikely, because the Old Testament and New Testament are a combination of writings that were penned by dozens of people and collected over a period of many centuries. All of them wrote down the revelation each one of them received from God. The “book” of the Bible would be, perhaps, the finest masterpiece of cohesive literature ever written if it were written by a single author, but it’s cohesiveness and internal integrity is all the more noteworthy by the fact that it was written by dozens of authors across a large expanse of time.

People who understand the Bible only on a surface level claim it is full of contradictions. We should hardly find it surprising if it was full of contradictions, having been written by so many people over such a long time, but the thing is: a deeper reading of the Bible reveals an uncanny, transcendent, incredibly subtle and nuanced consistency and harmony.

The intricacy and harmony of the Bible is quite stunning given its authorship: the fact that it was written by people, and not by the hand of God Himself.

And this fact led me to another thought when I first read the Bible in its sweep from beginning to end: if God is God, 1) He could reveal Himself in a way that creatures made by Him could understand His communication; and 2) He could preserve the integrity of that communication. Why? Because He is God.

I didn’t become a believer immediately at that point in my life, but I could not deny the uncanny tapestry of the Scriptures.

I recall these things as I consider the Qur’an, and the progressive nature of the two religions’ Scriptures. In the Qur’an, statements in the later sura expressly contradict and abrogate (negate) earlier sura. The later sura are also the problematic ones in which we see statements about killing infidels, etc.

In the Bible, by contrast, we see the earlier Scriptures affirmed, explained and extended in the person of Jesus. We see a progression from Law to the spirit of the law, and from law to grace, and the seeds of that progression are there in the very beginning.

Continue reading “Progression of Revelation in the Bible Part 2”