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The Abuse of 'Justice'

By Michael Easton
Arizona Daily Wildcat
March 11, 1999
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

There are many words and concepts that suffer constant abuse in this age, but one of the greatest victims is "justice." This is becoming increasingly evident with each court case that makes the headlines.

In West Palm Beach, Fla., a 15-year-old mentally disabled student was charged with strong arm robbery, extortion, and petty theft - enough charges to earn him a life sentence - after he demanded $2 from another student.

A spokesman told reporters the prosecution intended to charge the teen as an adult though he had the mental capacity of a five-year-old.

"You do not cherry-pick cases," he said, "you do not say you feel sorry for this person because there is a developmental disability or this person has a bad family life."

Certainly we cannot have separate standards based on sympathies or to show preference in any court ruling. The Bible states that to overthrow the righteous in judgment, or give preference to the wicked, is not good. But to apply these concepts to this situation is simply ridiculous. It misrepresents the ideal of justice by trying to force-fit it where it certainly doesn't apply.

We claim that we want to create a society where there is justice and equality, but more and more we realize that man's attempts to accomplish this are foolhardy. Why is this true? Why is it that the concept of justice is so abused and misunderstood?

To answer these questions, we must first address another: Why can't people just naturally grasp justice?

There are several aspects to the answer, and believe it or not they are all found in the Bible. Humankind, as individuals and as a whole, is not just by nature. Let's be clear on what I am saying here. Every individual has the ability to discern what is right and wrong, but no one has an innate goodness that drives him or her to do the right thing. The Bible is completely clear on this aspect of human nature.

It is a problem, then, that instead of finding the true standard for justice we look inside of ourselves and "always let our conscience be our guides." We can't look to ourselves to find a good standard.

Here in America the standard for justice, allegedly, is the law guided by the Constitution, yet even those who know the law backwards and forwards, lawyers that is, can be some of the most corrupt people that we know today. It is not uncommon for stories to be published about lawyers even being implicated in illegal activities with their clients. The knowledge of the law, the ability to discern what is legal or not, does not create in these people a higher moral sense. In fact, an intimate knowledge of the law is one of the keys to its abuse. The law is not a good standard.

You can't look to others in the past or present to provide a guide for justice. Basing your way of life on someone else's is a pitfall, for not every one is perfect. There are things that I have learned from the people I respect, and not all of them good. In fact, most of the people I grew up around asked me not to look to them as a standard lest I acquire some of their bad habits. They pointed me to another as a standard. Only a person who lived a perfect life would be a good standard.

Is there hope then? Can we find a real standard, one that does not pass away with time? The answer is emphatically no, not on this earth. If you want a standard then you must broaden your horizons to consider things not of man. Jesus is the standard that I have chosen, as much as that angers a lot of people to hear. But, what better standard can be found? Show me a standard that is more consistent, more obvious and more real and I would willingly consider it.

Proverbs 3:5-8 says "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes, fera the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and life to your bones." This is not so much a command as a promise, something we can grab on to in these times when we can find no standard among us. Something we can rely on when there is nothing to rely on. It is hope.