Jehovah—A Lover of Righteousness and Justice
A YOUNG girl in Sarajevo asks herself why the children of her city must endure so much suffering. “We haven’t done anything. We are innocent,” she says. Distraught Argentinean mothers have visited a public square in Buenos Aires for some 15 years, in protest over the disappearance of their sons. An African named Emmanuel, whose mother and three sisters were brutally murdered during an outbreak of ethnic violence, insists: “Everyone must receive his just reward . . . We want justice.”
Justice is one of Jehovah God’s principal attributes. “All his ways are justice,” says the Bible. Indeed, Jehovah is “a lover of righteousness and justice.” (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 33:5) To know God well, we must understand his sense of justice and learn to imitate it.—Hosea 2:19, 20; Ephesians 5:1.
Our concept of justice has probably been molded by what humans consider this quality to be. In some parts of the world, justice is often portrayed as a blindfolded woman holding a sword and a pair of scales. Human justice is supposed to be impartial, that is, blind to wealth or influence. It should carefully weigh in the scales the guilt or innocence of the accused. With its sword, justice should protect the innocent and punish wrongdoers.
The book Right and Reason—Ethics in Theory and Practice says that “justice is connected with law, obligation, rights, and duties, and measures out its awards according to equality or merit.” But Jehovah’s justice goes much farther than that. We can see this by considering the deeds and qualities of Jesus Christ, who is so much like his heavenly Father.—Hebrews 1:3.
The words of Isaiah 42:3 were applied to Jesus by the Gospel writer Matthew, who stated: “No bruised reed will he crush, and no smoldering flaxen wick will he extinguish, until he sends out justice with success.” Jesus declared a comforting message to people who were like a bruised reed that was bent over and even trampled. They were like a lamp’s smoldering wick, as though their last spark of life had nearly been extinguished. Instead of figuratively crushing bruised reeds and quenching smoldering wicks, Jesus pitied the afflicted, taught and healed them, and made clear to them the justice of Jehovah God. (Matthew 12:10-21) As Isaiah’s prophecy foretold, that kind of justice inspired hope.
Mercy and Jehovah’s Justice
Mercy is an intrinsic part of God’s justice. This came to the fore when Jesus was on earth. He perfectly represented God’s standards of justice and righteousness. However, the Jewish scribes and Pharisees sought to attain righteousness by following a rigid code of laws—most of their own making. Their legalistic justice usually eliminated mercy. Many clashes between Jesus and the Pharisees revolved around this issue: What is true justice and righteousness?—Matthew 9:10-13; Mark 3:1-5; Luke 7:36-47.
Jesus illustrated how to treat others in a just and righteous way. A man versed in the Law once asked Jesus what was necessary in order to inherit everlasting life. In response Jesus asked him a question and commended him when he replied that the two most important laws were to love God with one’s whole heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love one’s neighbor as oneself. The man then asked: “Who really is my neighbor?” Jesus replied by relating the illustration of the neighborly Samaritan.—Luke 10:25-37.
Jehovah’s righteousness and merciful justice were exemplified in Jesus’ illustration of the Samaritan. By unselfishly helping an injured man whom he did not know, the Samaritan did something upright, just, and merciful. Jesus himself showed the same spirit when on earth. He was righteous and just. Moreover, he gave his life for needy people, for sinful and imperfect mankind subject to suffering, sickness, and death. The apostle Paul linked righteousness with the ransom provision. He wrote: “As through one trespass the result to men of all sorts was condemnation, likewise also through one act of justification [or, “one righteous act,” footnote] the result to men of all sorts is a declaring of them righteous for life.” (Romans 5:18) This “one righteous act” was God’s way of saving obedient mankind from the disastrous consequences of Adam’s sin, for which they were not directly responsible.
God’s justice sought to redeem sinful humans and to uphold righteous principles at the same time. To ignore sin would have been both unjust and unloving, for it would have encouraged lawlessness. On the other hand, if God’s justice had been limited to meting out either a reward or a punishment, mankind’s situation would have been hopeless. According to the Bible, “the wages sin pays is death” and “there is not a righteous man, not even one.” (Romans 3:10; 6:23) At great personal cost to himself and to his beloved Son, Jehovah provided a propitiatory sacrifice for sins.—1 John 2:1, 2.
The ransom shows that divine justice is interwoven with principled love (Greek, a·gaʹpe). Indeed, God’s justice is the outworking of his righteous principles—a reflection of what he stands for morally. When exercised by God, therefore, a·gaʹpe is love on which divine justice is based. (Matthew 5:43-48) So if we really comprehend Jehovah’s justice, we will have absolute trust in his judicial decisions. As “the Judge of all the earth,” he always does what is right.—Genesis 18:25; Psalm 119:75.
Imitate Jehovah’s Justice
The Bible exhorts us to “become imitators of God.” (Ephesians 5:1) This means imitating his justice as well as his love. Since we are imperfect, however, our ways are not as lofty as those of Jehovah God. (Isaiah 55:8, 9; Ezekiel 18:25) So how can we prove to be lovers of righteousness and justice? By putting on “the new personality, which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” (Ephesians 4:24) Then we will love what God loves and hate what he hates. “True righteousness” shuns violence, immorality, uncleanness, and apostasy, for these violate what is holy. (Psalm 11:5; Ephesians 5:3-5; 2 Timothy 2:16, 17) Godly justice also moves us to show sincere interest in others.—Psalm 37:21; Romans 15:1-3.
Moreover, if we appreciate the merciful nature of God’s justice, we will not be inclined to judge spiritual brothers or sisters. How could we possibly understand them as well as Jehovah does? Would we not judge them from our own biased viewpoint? Thus, Jesus warned: “Stop judging that you may not be judged; for with what judgment you are judging, you will be judged; and with the measure that you are measuring out, they will measure out to you. Why, then, do you look at the straw in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the rafter in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Allow me to extract the straw from your eye’; when, look! a rafter is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First extract the rafter from your own eye, and then you will see clearly how to extract the straw from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5) An honest appraisal of our own imperfections will hold us back from making judgments that Jehovah would consider unrighteous.
Appointed congregation elders are obliged to judge in cases of serious wrongdoing. (1 Corinthians 5:12, 13) When doing so, they remember that God’s justice seeks to extend mercy where possible. If there is no basis for it—as in the case of unrepentant sinners—mercy cannot be extended. But the elders do not expel such a wrongdoer from the congregation out of vindictiveness. They hope that the disfellowshipping action itself will bring him to his senses. (Compare Ezekiel 18:23.) Under Christ’s headship, the elders serve in the interests of justice, and this includes being like “a hiding place from the wind.” (Isaiah 32:1, 2) They must therefore show impartiality and reasonableness.—Deuteronomy 1:16, 17.
Sow Seeds in Righteousness
While we await God’s righteous new world, we must “seek righteousness” in order to enjoy divine favor. (Zephaniah 2:3; 2 Peter 3:13) This idea is beautifully expressed in these words, found at Hosea 10:12: “Sow seed for yourselves in righteousness; reap in accord with loving-kindness. Till for yourselves arable land, when there is time for searching for Jehovah until he comes and gives instruction in righteousness to you.”
In our daily lives, we have many opportunities to ‘sow seeds in righteousness,’ just as Jesus illustrated with his parable of the neighborly Samaritan. Jehovah will ensure that we “reap in accord with loving-kindness.” If we keep on walking in the “path of justice,” we will continue to receive instruction in righteousness under Kingdom rule. (Isaiah 40:14) As time passes, we will doubtless come to appreciate even more fully that Jehovah is a lover of righteousness and justice.—Psalm 33:4, 5.
[Picture on page 23]
The neighborly Samaritan exemplified Jehovah’s justice
[Picture on page 23]
Jesus had pity for afflicted people, who were like bruised reeds