If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that we passionately desire a world in which justice occurs. But true justice is universal. “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:2).
Many find it tempting to believe that God does not exist, that morality does not exist, and further that life after death does not exist because of “a psychological escape mechanism to avoid taking ultimate responsibility for one’s own life”, comments John Lennox in his book, Gunning for God. Lennox continues by quoting Czeslaw Milosz, a Polish citizen who lived in Warsaw during World War II and vehemently opposed the Nazis. He said,
A true opium of the people is a belief in nothingness after death — the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders, we are not going to be judged. –Lennox, Gunning for God
Avoiding judgement is tempting. Being held accountable for our actions can be painful. Yet, as noted, some pain is good for us. Pain can alert us that healthy change is needed. We do not hesitate to inflict pain on others – especially when we can clearly see the wrongs they have done. But most of us live inconsistently. We excuse our own sins, but demand accountability for everyone else. Pastor Andy Stanley once said, “Liars hate to be lied to. Thieves don’t like to be stolen from. Cheaters don’t like to be cheated.”
Do we have the courage to face the universal consequences of justice? If we really want a just world, then we will need to accept personally accountability for our actions. Are we willing to face the consequences of our own sin? Could it be that resistance to accountability is due to an intrinsic knowledge that the ultimate consequence of sin is death. True justice, when it encounters evil, necessarily requires death. This knowledge is naturally ingrained within us.
Watch the news for several hours and you will surely learn of an incident that will fill you with anger. It might be a mass shooting, child abuse, theft, or political deception. Contemplate this incident long enough and your anger may grow into livid rage. Your rage will be turned toward the perpetrators of the crime. You will desire justice for the innocent, which also means you will desire death for the criminals.
It happens all the time in movies. When the evil villain falls to their death in the movie, we celebrate. In The Lion King, we celebrate the death of evil Uncle Scar. In Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, we celebrate the death of Darth Vader. Many movies end with the death of a villain and in that moment, death is celebrated. When the villain dies, we feel a sense of justice. Crimes against humanity have been vindicated and our moral world is set right. In these moments we are grateful for death. But what exactly are we grateful for?