Secular orthodoxy maintains that courts are founts of justice. This belief is so ingrained in the political and cultural psyche that our judicial system is often referred to as the “justice system.” Within courts’ hallowed halls civil disputes are equitably resolved; the criminally guilty are so adjudged and punished; the innocent vindicated; and justice ultimately decreed. Or so goes the theory.
Even staunch proponents of this fanciful conception of the judicial system, if they had but minimal exposure to its reality, would likely conclude that what passes for “justice” is usually a rough, inferior variant thereof, at its best; at its worst, an outright travesty. Whether the subject is O. J. Simpson or George Zimmerman (to use two examples from the criminal law arena), anecdotes abound with examples of the judicial system careening off the rails of justice.
Yet like the old adage that even a broken watch is accurate twice a day, court decisions are widely perceived as getting it “right” most of the time, thus buoying faith in the integrity of the legal system as a purveyor of justice and restoring optimism in its overall viability.
When consulting with aggrieved clients in my law practice, I am often reminded of the proverb “Many seek an audience with a ruler” (Prov. 29:26). My clients want desperately to have their side of the story told to an impartial, wise, and discerning ruler or arbiter, whether in the form of a judge or jury. If only clients were afforded their day in court, lies would be exposed, deceptions laid bare, wrongs righted, truth would reign supreme, and justice would ultimately prevail.
The journey to getting one’s “day in court,” however, is often hindered by financial and pragmatic considerations, as well as substantive and procedural legal hurdles. And that is only half the battle.
The “justice” distilled from society’s institutions, however, is subject to the vagaries of temperament and philosophy, finite resources—whether time or money—and competing versions of “fact” and “truth.” Upon these shifting variables secular justice ultimately balances, as if on a fulcrum, landing on one party’s side or the other, depending on given circumstances.
Christians, however, recognize that true justice, as conceived by the Lord, does not originate in courts, notwithstanding the fact that courts may serve as its vehicle. The corollary to the proverb “Many seek an audience with a ruler” is “But it is from the Lord that one gets justice.”
In Proverbs Solomon, whose “breadth of understanding [was] as measureless as the sand on the seashore” (1 Kings 4:29), exposes the futility of relying on human institutions to obtain justice for our tribulations.
Christians may thus take comfort in knowing that there exists a truly Supreme Arbiter, access to whom is unhindered by financial or pragmatic considerations; whose justice, unlike the crude secular variant, is pure and absolute, without blemish or influence from the world’s imperfections.