Make Justice Great Again

Don Schanzenbach comments
| Politics

This is part 1 of an ongoing series dealing with Biblical justice. Read all the article in this series.

Almost every news cycle delivers reports to our ears convincing us that we cannot trust either the social systems or the courts to do justice. Convicted criminals receive unjust sentences. Widows, orphans, and what the Bible calls aliens are pushed to the edge of ruin and the legal abuse many of us fear most can come from our government. This unhappy news is worrisome because society is always held together by the trust of the people in their churches, courts, and governments. When trust is broken we are set adrift. The cultural anchors of these institutions tether the ships of state and society only if justice remains at the heart of their actions. If justice fails in these realms the people begin to look for other means to enforce what is right, and to protect their families and assets. Groups like the Ku Klux Klan or the Guardian Angels will spring up to (supposedly) enforce justice when the people believe that justice will not be provided by more legitimate sources. If we want to avoid the terrors of future Ku Klux Klan or gang type organizations then we must bring back justice within our current law enforcement systems.

We have entered a dangerous time in America. As justice flees the land our social fabric continues to tear, perhaps soon to shred. If any chance for greatness is to return we need more than election rhetoric. Justice must both drive and be driven to the forefront in our culture.

How Do We Bring Back Justice?

It is my prayerful choice to spend a year (or two) discussing justice, its flight from our society, and how we might get it back. Scripture is replete with references to justice, its relationship to a moral society, to personal character, and to liberty. The word justice is used 135 times in the NASB translation, along with many other uses of words like righteous, righteousness, just, and references to obedience to God’s law. The topic of justice in Scripture is larger than only uses of the word itself. It is a pervasive theme of both Testaments, of the prophets, the books of Moses, Psalms, Proverbs, Job, and the teachings of Jesus (which might be my long way of saying “the whole Bible”). It is a theme to which our culture must return if we are to survive.

Even with all of the biblical emphasis on justice we hear little talk about it in current society. Rarely does any talking head ask, after reporting even the most horrific crime, “what would be a just sentence if the accused is convicted?” If a child molester is caught the big TV talkers never ramp up discussions about what the just treatment is for that crime. We hear quick references about “justice being served” but no one explores what that really means. In the area of criminal justice the definitions seem pretty vague and mostly unexplored in public conversations.

Social(ized) Justice

In the field of social justice (did you notice how easily that term rolled off the keyboard’s tongue) our situation is quite different. Religious and social liberals have so thoroughly propounded and captured the discussion about social justice, that there is virtually no oxygen left for their opponents to breathe. We don’t know how to discuss social justice without using their ubiquitous term. There floats, in our socialized air, an assumption that liberal ideas about social welfare are an expression of biblical thought concerning justice. The idea, absurd even on its face, has been inhaled by all of us to a point where we have a difficult time imagining what truly biblical definitions might be. We are not even asking the necessary questions to begin a sound conversation. For instance, can a person ever owe a debt to society? If they can, how do we know if it has been paid? And do these things have anything to do with delivering justice to the masses? Currently, religious and social liberals own this part of the conversation about justice. We must take it back if biblical justice is to be regained in the social realm.

Jesus: the Original Superhero of Justice

A few months ago I noticed a quote from Isaiah in Matthew 12:

Behold My Servant whom I have chosen; My beloved in whom my servant is well pleased; I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry out; nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A battered reed He will not break off, and a smoldering wick he will not put out, until He leads justice to victory, and in His name the Gentiles will hope. -Matthew 12:18-21 [emphases added]

I descried (see how I avoided repeating the word noticed ) this quote because it attributed to Jesus a reason for His coming to earth. Having, with John Bona, recently completed The Liberty Book I was on high alert for any Scripture that discussed purposes for the coming of Christ. In The Liberty Book we quoted Luke, quoting Jesus, quoting Isaiah, saying that Jesus had come “to set at liberty the captives.” That was taken from the earliest part of Christ’s ministry when He stood up in the synagogue and read from the book of Isaiah. It was a forceful way for Jesus to let everyone, for all centuries, know why He came to earth. Granted, much more is reported and taught in Scripture than only this quote but it drove a stake in the ground that could not be ignored. He came to set at liberty the captives. When I noticed that Isaiah also spoke of proclaiming, “justice to the Gentiles” and leading, “justice to victory,” I quickly began to realize that this theme of justice was connected, like the theme of liberty, to the Root and Branch, Jesus. Scripture talks about the purpose of Christ coming to earth in a variety of ways. There is only one Savior but, like a perfect gem, there can be more than one exquisite facet. It is this facet of Jesus and His work toward justice that we are going to examine in the coming months.

Though Matthew relates two ways in which Jesus will promote justice the full quote straight from Isaiah reveals a third:

Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry out or raise His voice, nor make His voice heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not be disheartened or crushed until He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law. -Isaiah 42:1-4

New Testament writers often, probably not having the biblical manuscripts at hand, quote the Old Testament from memory. Many times the writers of Scripture expect us to do our homework and look things up. In this case we discover that Jesus is going to establish justice in the earth. That would be this earth we live on not some other earth. I do not say that to be snide but to point out that our brethren who believe that all the good stuff happens in the hereafter are, and will be, dead wrong. God is working to establish justice in the earth and we can be a part of that glorious, reconciling (2 Corinthians 5:9) process. The coastlands, as Isaiah promised, are still waiting, “expectantly for His law.” A part of our work is to believe what was written in that law and then to act on it.

During this effort to Make Justice Great Again we plan to talk about justice from three different perspectives

  • What God’s Word teaches about justice
  • How we can apply His Word in our current situations
  • And the biblically based hope for success


There will be plenty of stories of justice and injustice to tell along the way to help us see how these ideas play out in the real world.  As we move through the year you, our readers, will see our best ideas unfold; not that we plan on inventing anything. But we believe that as we “study to show ourselves approved” God will give us greater wisdom over time. Our goal is to share that wisdom with you first as articles and eventually, Lord willing, as a book. We are happy if you choose to join us for the journey.


Don Schanzenbach

Dr. Don Schanzenbach is the author of five books all dealing with the rebuilding of Christian civilization. His many articles may be found at his ministry web site Currently he is working on a series of articles on biblical justice targeted, Lord willing, to become a full length book (sponsorship for that book could be available for the right party.) Dr. Schanzenbach holds a masters degree in Applied Biblical Studies and a doctorate in Political Philosophy and Government from New Geneva Seminary in Appomattox, Virginia. His most recent title, The Liberty Book, is co-authored with John Bona and was published by Broadstreet Publishers.

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