How long must you wait for justice—and will the penalty actually be fair?
For citizens of Bhopal, India, 25 years have passed since a pesticide plant emitted a gas cloud that killed nearly 25,000 people. Finally, the company executives were formally sentenced. They'll receive two years in prison and fines equivalent to $2,100.
What kind of justice is this? Twenty-five years is a long time for victims to suffer, only to see those responsible so lightly punished.
The very idea of justice is closely tied to the concept of fairness. Children inherently seek situations that are fair. Adults likewise respond with: "Life's not fair." Why do we seek something so elusive? Is fair a fixed understanding or not?
The standard of law
Fair justice is based on a standard, which we call a law. Law is frequently not placed in a positive light as it involves restrictions and penalties when broken. Some people even despise law enforcement officials. But laws are necessary for order and prosperity.
The way the planets orbit the sun involves laws of motion that are completely necessary for the environmental stability that life requires. Other laws governing behavior keep us safe. Imagine driving without stoplights and rules of the road! Obeying traffic laws is for our own good. Likewise, avoiding criminal activity is also for our own good—to uplift our spiritual character.
Laws aren't so appealing when one is on the offending side. But victims of crime often want to use the full measure of the law to punish the criminal. It's human nature to excuse breaking a law when it suits us, but to demand legal penalties when it benefits us.
Fair treatment must be based on fair laws. As humans we can't often create that level of fairness because we're flawed by nature.
For instance, if men make a law, women may complain. If one group passes a law, a minority or other class of that society will undoubtedly not be fully represented.
Examples of human laws that do not promote justice are all around us. Judges are bribed, discrimination and partiality are the norm throughout the world and even some religious groups are excluded by some national laws. The justice system in this world is failing to provide fair treatment, much less provide decency and order. Due to their imperfections, the legal systems created by humans are just plain broken.
A better law that promotes justice does exist. In fact, the Bible is full of the laws created by God Himself that govern even the intent of our hearts. These are timeless principles that could translate into concrete laws for today. God's is the ultimate fair law, the universal standard on which to base justice.
The sad truth is that governments today will not peaceably turn to this superior and supreme law. However, God promises that when Jesus Christ returns, the world will be governed by one law and mankind's longing for fairness and justice will be satisfied.
Then, thankfully, those suffering from the effects of toxic chemicals or other unjust circumstances will finally experience true fairness and justice under the law, as well as the mercy that only our Savior can give. VT