May Justice Be Served

  • Nathan Schneider
Wooden gavel

Every believer is certain to find it difficult at times to engage someone in a meaningful way about the gospel. There is, after all, a wide and deep chasm that exists between the worldview of the Christian and the prevailing worldviews represented in contemporary culture. And this chasm is only getting bigger. It used to be that one could count on having at least some semblance of common ground with unbelievers that came from the long and predominant influence of Judeo-Christian ethics and philosophy. But that common ground is shrinking, and has been for some time. Believers can no longer assume that they possess the same shared values and assumptions that their parents and grandparents had. It’s a new world with a shifting set of assumptions which appear more and more alien to the Christian worldview.

I say all of that to paint the picture of contemporary evangelism, but at the same time I don’t want to give the impression that Christians and non-Christians share no common ground. There’s actually a lot of common ground that believers and unbelievers have if you take the time to think about it carefully.

For one, all of us share this world. We all receive the same unending testimony that creation gives about the glory of God. As Greg Bahnsen has said, “All men have in common the world created by God, controlled by God, and constantly revealing God. In this case, any area of life or any fact can be used as a point of contact” (Greg Bahnsen, Always Ready, 43).

Likewise, we share another point of contact with unbelievers: every person, regardless of religion or worldview, is made in the image of God. Each of us, tarnished as we are by sin, is nonetheless an image bearer of God. That means every person, regardless of their relationship with God, possesses dignity as God’s unique creation. It means that every person, regardless of their worldview, is made to be like God and represent God in some way. The image of God is amazing common ground that the believer has with every other person on this planet. Even though the unbeliever doesn’t like this truth and tries to suppress it (Rom 1:18f), he knows instinctively that he is a created being who is responsible to God.

There is a vivid illustration of this that appeared a few weeks ago, where the headline in ABC News read, “German court sets trial date for former Nazi guard, aged 100.” In the details of the article that follow, we learn that this unnamed man, described as 100 years old, is being charged with 3,518 counts of accessory to murder for his alleged participation from 1942 to 1945 as a prison guard at the Sachsenhausen camp on the outskirts of Berlin, where he is purported to have been a member of the SS Nazi militia. Despite his advanced age, medical evaluations found him fit to stand trial, and German prosecutors reported that they felt the necessity to move swiftly on this trial otherwise the man may die before ever face justice. 

Now, as we think about this report, it might be surprising at first that so much energy is being expelled to prosecute a man for crimes committed over 7 decades ago. Yet even secular agencies in Germany recognize that the horrific nature of the crimes and the mandate for justice place a moral imperative on the state to make sure that this individual does not leave this earth without facing the consequences of his crimes. That is a very revealing fact about the moral nature of the human heart.

It points us to the fact that every person is made in God’s image, and so every person senses the horror of murder, particularly in connection with Nazi Germany’s systematic extermination of the Jewish people. And it points us to the human desire to see justice accomplished. In an age of diminishing human conscience, where the boundaries of morality are being assaulted at every angle, there still exists the moral strength in the human conscience to see justice served and evil punished. That’s amazing common ground upon which believer and unbeliever can meet. And it’s a strong bridge over which the believer can begin to dismantle the false worldview of the person he or she is engaging.

Undoubtedly, there is a certain amount of desperation present in the prosecutors. They know that their time to seek justice against this man for his crimes is running out. This is where the Christian worldview comes in and gives some much-needed reminders. Whether justice is served or not for this individual, we know that no one will escape the accountability of God. Every person will one day face God the judge and their actions in this life will be weighed, and true and perfect justice will be meted out.

The truth of that ultimate justice has amazing apologetic value. It builds upon the desire for justice inherent in the conscience of every person, because everyone is created in the image of God, the true judge and upholder of justice and righteousness. It allows us to give warning to those who refuse to repent of their sin and believe the gospel. And it allows us to give encouragement to those who do—that there is only one plea which will allow the sinner to escape the horrible justice which awaits them at the judgment seat of God—the plea of the blood of Jesus on behalf of the repentant sinner.

But there’s one other thing that justice bridges for us with the unbeliever. It gives us a way to give comfort and hope. You see, the secular life doesn’t allow for final justice. There are families who have suffered horrible tragedies at the hands of bloodthirsty men. Some of these crimes are never solved, the perpetrators are never found and never brought to justice. Sometimes, the criminals get away, or there’s just not enough evidence to find them guilty. It’s a devastating blow to the human heart.

But the Christian worldview says, whatever happens on this earth in the human court of justice, there is a higher court which no person can escape. And where justice might never be satisfied in this life, the believer can bring a sense of hope that justice and righteousness will be upheld in the end by a perfect and righteous judge who will not let the guilty go unpunished. For the suffering person, bereft of a loved one and cheated out of justice, that just might be the most encouraging and comforting truth they will ever hear. It might be the bridge they need to walk across that wide and deep chasm to leave behind the empty worldview of secularism and embrace the hope of the Christian gospel.