Talk to most people on the street today concerning just about any issue and inevitably the word “fair” or, more likely, “unfair” will crop up a multitude of times. Whether the topic is immigration, education subsidies, abortion, legal acknowledgement of homosexual unions, gender switching, assisted suicide, job promotions, or who got the last cookie after supper -the term ‘fair’ has become ubiquitous in use.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of ‘fair’ is:
agreeing with what is thought to be right or acceptable
treating people in a way that does not favor some over others
not too harsh or critical
- marked by impartiality and honesty : free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism
After closely examining the above explanation, it is no small wonder that the word ‘fair’ has become so widespread in use. Emphasis has been added to the above to highlight my point, but ‘fairness’ is incredibly subjective -based upon what is “thought to be” correct, and is not “too harsh or critical.” For a culture that has only the individual self to anchor morality to, is it any wonder that daily conversations are filled with references to fairness?
Contrast the above definition with that of ‘just’:
- acting or being in conformity with what is morally upright or good : <a just war>
- being what is merited :<a just punishment>
Notice some key differences here:
- Being ‘just’ deals directly with “what is morally upright or good,” no subjectivity is permitted when being truly just. In fact, the wording of this definition precludes the idea that justice can change with individuals’ differing opinions or views. Justice transcends individual human authorship.
- Being ‘just’ has everything to do with “what is merited,” not what what we think/feel is merited. Once again, it transcends human authorship.
Even whenever the term ‘just’ is used today, it is oftentimes referred to more in the sense of ‘fair’ than in what the word actually means. However, for anybody trying to flee from God or repress a guilty conscience (which can include Christians too at times), an avoidance of speaking or thinking about justice in the sense above is almost necessary -for to use it would be self-condemning, which is why everybody uses the word ‘fair’ (or re-purposes the meaning of ‘fair’ and calls it ‘just’).
However, repression does not mean that people, on a temporal level, do not desire justice. One look at the media that people down through the centuries have consumed can leave little doubt of this: books, songs, comics, movies, and games where evil is constantly (and rightfully) brought to justice. In fact, it is often a key motivator. We revere historical figures who championed justice, and demonize their enemies; we flock to theatres to watch cops, vigilantes, and soldiers conquer evil; we love books that pit good versus evil and good wins. People, at a most basic level, will always have a sense and desire for justice because it is a piece of the God in whose image they were made.
So, as we go out this week and have those interactions where discussions of ‘fairness’ arise, and they will, let’s not forget what it means to be ‘just,’ because that matters infinitely more in the end than someone’s personal sense of being wronged. There is only one author of justice, God, and unless the world draws near to him they will see true justice with no quarter given to a selfish sense of ‘fairness.’ Remember the cry of the saints in heaven, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?“(Rev. 6:10). God’s wrath is coming and we his people are called to make his name known, and proclaim the mercy freely available in Christ, before the end when the doors close. Proclaim the author of justice to the world.