When confronted by radical evil, or usual talk of tolerance and moral relativism slide right out the window. Morals, we’re often told, are the products of social forces—certainly not the works of an absolute God. But this kind of skepticism fails to equip us to deal with the sorts of evil acts that have confronted us in the news cycle even of late.
No one is calling out for mercy or tolerance of sexual criminals or drunk drivers. Both nationally or locally, we have many people crying out for blood, for retribution, for justice.
Christianity tells us that there is true, lasting justice found in the character of God. In Paul’s famous letter to the church in Rome, he writes:
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking[a] and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:1-11)
If you’re a skeptic or simply new to the Christian faith, you may struggle with the idea of a God who expresses things like anger and judgment. Those of us who grew up in the self-esteem movement have been assured—sometimes from birth—that we are a unique and beautiful snowflake. Surely you and I are worthy of God’s love?
But again, the cries for justice are right and proper when dealing with human depravity. In recent years, one of the most popular TV programs was Breaking Bad, a show that depicted a high school chemistry teacher who starts manufacturing illegal drugs to pay for his mounting medical bills. At first you pity him, but as the story unfolds evil takes hold of him. Viewers watch as this ordinary man becomes a man of extraordinary evil. Why would such a show become so popular? The show’s director explains that it has everything to do with our innate sense of justice:
“If religion is a reaction of man, and nothing more, it seems to me that it represents a human desire for wrongdoers to be punished…. I feel some sort of need for Biblical atonement, or justice, or something. I like to believe there is some comeuppance, that karma kicks in at some point, even if it takes years or decades to happen. My girlfriend says this great thing that’s become my philosophy as well. ‘I want to believe there’s a heaven. But I can’t not believe there’s a hell.”
Christianity tells us that our desire for justice is right and proper—it’s just not broad enough. It’s easy to see evil in the papers; it’s much harder to see it in the mirror.
But the Bible tells us that God is a God of justice, a God who is ferociously angry at anything and everything that defies the goodness of his character and his creation. And that includes you and me.
For those of us that trust Christ, this brings us both the relief of having escaped God’s judgment (because Jesus took our place), and it brings us the hope of future, final vindication (because there will be a final resurrection and justice).
To paraphrase something often said by pastor and author Tim Keller, even if Christianity weren’t true, we should want it to be true. All man’s attempts at justice are little more than cause-effect types of punishments. Only the gospel promises final, eternal justice. Are you angry? Hurting? Dissatisfied by the state of our hurting world? Then we have only to look to the cross, look to the hope of God’s future, knowing that our destiny is as secure as God’s justice is swift.
 Segal, David (July 6, 2011). “The Dark Art of ‘Breaking Bad'”. The New York Times. July 25, 2011.