Saturday, November 03, 2007

Justice (3) - Injustice

Judging justly means identifying injustices and correcting the situation. If no injustice has occurred, then there is no justice to be done. Therefore to understand justice we must have a sound understanding of the nature of injustice. Injustice has the following characteristics:

  1. An event has occurred that creates the injustice. Justice deals with something that has happened in the past. The event that produced the injustice can be identified (justice is backward looking).
  2. A person or group of people have taken an action that harmed someone. Injustice is a characteristic of human actions. An animal cannot commit an injustice. For example a wandering bull may harm someone, but it has not committed and unjust action (the person who let it wander may have done something unjust). A natural event cannot be an injustice. An exploding volcano may cause terrible harm, but it is not an unjust event.
  3. The unjust action will have harmed a victim or group of victims. In the case of theft, they will have lost something that belonged to them. In the case of an assault, the victim may have injuries and lost some property. With murder, the victim is dead.
  4. An injustice has two parties. One that did the action that caused the harm and the other that did the harm. The injustice is essentially a dispute between these two parties. If the person harmed is dead, the dispute may be with their family.
  5. The action must be contrary to the law. For Christians, the standard is God’s law. An unjust act is one that is forbidden by the law. God’s law forbids theft, so stealing is an unjust action. An innocent action that does harm is not unjust. If the wheel flies off my car and hurts someone that is not an unjust action, unless I have been careless in caring about my maintenance. Justice does not attempt to remedy accidents (although compassion might).
  6. Injustice is different from sin. All injustices are sinful, but not all sins are unjust or unlawful. Stealing is a sin that results in an unjust situation, because someone ends up with less than they should have. And the person stealing gets more things than they should. Coveting is a sin, but it is not an unjust act. Pride is a sin, but being proud is not an injustice. Covetousness and pride cannot be dealt with by injustice. However, pride and coveting can lead to actions that harm other people. Their consequences can be dealt with by justice, if they are contrary to the law.
  7. Injustice often involves a dispute about the facts of what happened. The person accused of unjust behaviour may deny that they were involved in the incident. They may deny that their action was unjust. The victim may have a different view of what happened.

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