The Frustrations of Human Justice

This post is born from the Shakespeare class that I am taking this summer!

Yeah. I know. You probably didn’t plan on reading about Shakespeare today but I promise this post doesn’t contain any sonnets and is pretty interesting. At least to me…

Something that has amazed me about this class is the reality that much of what Shakespeare wrote about is relevant today. Yeah thats staying power of about 600 years!

One such relevant topic is the inadequacy of human justice.

In many of Shakespeare’s plays there is a continual theme of justice. Shakespeare will set up a story in which someone has made an oath that they are unable to keep (Merchant of Venice) or has found themselves on the wrong side of the law (Measure for Measure). What Shakespeare does so well in these plays is present the inadequacy of human justice to the reader. The way that he does this is by developing the key characters so well. The reader gets to know both sides of the spectrum: the party exacting justice and the party under the consequence of justice.

What the reader comes to find is that they are unsatisfied if justice is brought upon the accused and if it is withheld. The reason the reader is unsatisfied is because both the law and the executor of the law are not perfect. However, at the same time the person that is under condemnation may or may not deserve varying degrees of punishment.

The reader is caught in the tension between desiring justice and seeing the flaws of imperfect justice.

Ultimately all human justice falls short of perfect justice. Only God can bring perfect justice because only God is perfect.

I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad. (Psalm 119:96)

Righteous are you, O LORD, and right are your rules. You have appointed your testimonies in righteousness and in all faithfulness. (Psalm 119:37-38

Human justice is necessary and should continually strive to be closer and closer to the perfect justice of God. However, only when we see the perfect and immutable justice of God will we be truly satisfied.

Michael

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