Justice and equality are not the same. Equality implies that everyone, no matter who they are, no matter what they’ve done, should be treated exactly the same. Justice means everyone, no matter who they are, gets treated fairly. Everyone plays by the same set of rules.
If we are all to be equal, then jails and prisons are unacceptable. Criminals must be released and allowed to go free, otherwise, they are not equal. If we are to be just, however, then some people will forfeit their freedom by disobeying fair and just laws.
If we are to be equal, then competition is a curse. Every worker, no matter how many hours they work or what job they do, must receive the same annual salary. Every team in the NFL must get Super Bowl rings at the end of each season.
If we are to be just, then workers will receive fair wages based on their willingness to work and their abilities. If we are to be just, then competitive endeavors will have both winners and losers.
If we are all to be equal, then siblings should be allowed to marry each other. And men to marry men, women to marry women, marriages of three, or four, or whatever. If we are to be just, however, then we will place healthy and holy limits on who can and cannot marry.
If we are all to be equal, then children should be allowed to do all the same things as adults. I hope anyone will agree that this is a foolish statement, which demonstrates that absolute equality is a ludicrous notion. Justice and wisdom require proper limits.
Justice means that people require different treatment based on the facts. To treat a criminal like a law-abiding citizen would be foolish. To promote incest would be unwise. To treat children like adults would be dangerous. In fact, parents who treat their kids like adults may find themselves in legal trouble.
Equality is not automatically a virtue. To treat the weak exactly the same as the strong can be heartless. We build both stairways and ramps because we believe that people should be treated differently based on facts and circumstances. It is wrong to make some people use the stairs.
“Equal” has become an emotionally-charged term that is unfurled like a banner to rally public support for normalizing immoral and sinful behaviors. Sin is recast as a civil right and civil rights are redefined as equality. But true civil rights do not guarantee everyone equal treatment, they promise fair and just treatment.
The Bible calls for justice, but never insists on absolute equality. In fact, Scripture tells us that some people deserve special considerations. Widows, orphans, and aliens require extra help. God insists upon it.
The Bible says that some people have the right to take freedoms from others. The Bible says that some people have no right to marry. The Bible says that nobody has the right to pervert justice.
Using equality as a cover for immorality undermines justice. Any sinful behavior can be added to an endless list of supposed civil rights. Absolute equality as a guiding principle leads us further away from justice, not closer.
Not only does the Bible elevate justice above equality, God’s word also elevates mercy above judgment. More than simply judging sin and immorality, God’s desire is to demonstrate mercy and grace to the sinner. But without justice there is no mercy, no grace.
Only when we truly understand the justice and holiness of God can we appreciate his mercy and grace. If we try to replace God’s justice with mistaken notions about equality, then we obscure and even erase God’s standards. Rejection of God’s standards leaves us ignorant of our need for God’s grace.
Without a healthy understanding of God’s grace, we find Jesus dying on the cross not as our Savior but as a fool. Who would die for a world that has no need for a Savior?
Despite all the attempts to replace justice with equality, the sinfulness of humanity is still blatantly evident. And great sin requires a great salvation. Praise God we have a great salvation through our great Savior Jesus Christ!
Let us not demand human equality. Instead, let us cry out for God’s grace.
May God’s Spirit give us wisdom and compassion,
Brother Richard Foster