Justice- the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments
Fairness- the quality or state of being fair especially : fair or impartial treatment : lack of favoritism toward one side or another
You shall do no unrighteousness in a court. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person who is great, but in righteousness you shall judge your neighbor Leviticus 19:15
Isn’t it interesting that both “Fairness” and “Justice” have in their definitions the word “impartial”. Yet, justice is not always fair. We have this innate sense of fairness, and we learn early on what we perceive as “unfair”. Indeed, we often hear kids say “no fair!” when they believe that they have been denied something- especially if another sibling gets that thing. However, fairness is essentially a perception. It is a personal belief, based upon our experiences, and our own perceptions. We hold our own set of rules on this.
Justice, on the other hand, has a set of rules and standards that have been set outside of us to which we are expected to comply. Whether we like it or not, we abide by the rules, or justice will be administered. It may violate our sense of fairness.
Several years ago, I was driving down I-75 moving, let’s say “pretty quickly”. OK, I was speeding. I guess I was going about 80 mph and I was in the fast lane. I saw, just a bit late, a Highway Patrol car in the median. In that instant, I was thinking that I might get pulled over. Just then, another car blew past me in the middle lane at least going 85-90 mph.
At that moment I said to myself, “man, it would not be fair if I got pulled over and that guy didn’t!” Then, as I rolled past the Highway Patrol car without being pulled over, I had another thought. “It wouldn’t be fair if I had been pulled over, but it would be justice”.
As I mulled that, I began to think about how we think of justice and fairness. We tend to favor fairness, yet justice must prevail. Our perceptions are the guides that we use to determine what is fair. However, there are standards of justice that we simply must accept, whether or not we think they are fair.
I bring this up just for the sake of giving pause to think about our personal ideas about these concepts. How does your sense of fairness compare with your understanding of justice? How does it line up with what God expects of us?
Prayer: Father, help us to align with your sense of what is right- that is the way to peace, Amen.