Principles of Justice


"Out of the heart come evil thoughts . . . . These are what defile a person.

Matthew 15:19-20

Long before the controversies surrounding the political opinions of certain NFL players led to calls for a boycott of the league, I stopped watching pro ball, except for occasional "highlight" clips.
Why? Legalism!
It was a Superbowl... I don't remember which one or who was playing, but I remember this:
Just before a critical play in the last minutes of the game, the offense changed out a player, and the ball was snapped while the (running) departing player's trailing foot was still, barely and momentarily, inside the sideline.
Truthfully, I don't remember if the successful offensive play actually scored, or merely put the team in scoring position, but that's immaterial.
The opposing coach, or someone on his staff, saw the infraction and protested. The play was called back, and the momentum and course of the game changed so that the challenging team eventually won.
The player's foot leaving the field as the ball was snapped had absolutely no effect on either team's actions or reactions in the play, but it changed the outcome of the game. And it made me contemptuous of the people who "play" that way.
I understand the "rules" rather than athletic excellence and superior play recently determined the outcome of another championship game, but as I said, I wasn't watching.
I like watching great athletics, but not lawyers and legalists.
The way our society's lawyers and judges "play the game" in our courts, so that life and death matters are often decided by loopholes and legalism rather than any honest commitment to a "search for justice", has also led many otherwise upright people to contempt for the rule of law, historically one of humanity's noblest ideas.
In the Army, I knew "barracks lawyers" who could quote chapter and verse of every regulation and manual there was, but were useless in a crisis situation and cowardly in conflict.
In the Church, I know similar people, well-versed in scripture, but pitifully poor practitioners of its principles.
"But we must have and enforce 'the rules'", some say, "or live in anarchy!"
I say: "All justice and righteousness rests in principles of morality independent of human rule-making. We must have principles above and beyond enforcing merely human rules, or live in an unjust, cruel and evil society."
The principles we must look to as the foundation of just law and its application are the operating principles of God's kingdom, among which grace, lovingkindness, and forgiveness are paramount.
Truth, justice, and righteousness aren't found in the rules and the law if they're not found in the hearts of the people.