Are you just? Justice is one of the fundamental virtues of Yahweh God Almighty. If you claim God as your Father, then how much are you like Him? To live up to the title as a child of God, you will need to reflect His qualities, among which is justice.
Here, we will study some of the principles and ordinances Yahweh has laid out in His justice system. I will use the 2013 emotionally charged trial of George Zimmerman as an example to illustrate how we can apply God’s justice principles to our judicial system as well as to our daily life.
To acquaint yourself with the Zimmerman case, do a search on the net. The gist of the story is: On a rainy night in 2012, George Zimmerman, 28, a neighborhood watch volunteer, spotted someone walking in his gated community, acting suspiciously in his opinion. In those days, there had been break-ins in the community where the burglars were primarily African American males. Thinking that this African American man might be one of the burglars, Zimmerman followed him on foot, despite being advised to stay put by a 911 dispatcher. But this “man” was no burglar but a 17-year-old boy named Trayvon Martin who was returning from buying a bag of candy. According to Zimmerman, after he verbally confronted Martin, Martin attacked him, repeatedly punching him in the face and smashing his head against a concrete sidewalk. Zimmerman then reached to his gun and fatally shot Martin. Zimmerman claimed the killing was in self-defense, but the prosecution team claimed it was second-degree murder, for which he was charged. On July 13, 2013, the jury found Zimmerman “not guilty” of all charges. Here, we will briefly study this case in light of God’s justice system.
The fundamental principles and ordinances in Yahweh’s justice system are:
1) Firm evidence is required to charge and convict a person of a crime
In order to justly charge and convict someone of any crime, firm evidence is required to undeniably prove the guilt of the criminal. Under the Mosaic covenant, Yahweh required that a case be established by at least two eye witnesses to the crime (Deuteronomy 19:15). This meant if only one person witnessed a murder being committed, this sole witness’ testimony would not be sufficient to charge the murderer. This ordinance helped to prevent the conviction of an innocent person.
Today, with our technological advances, it is often not necessary to have actual eye witnesses to a crime to prove a crime was committed. For example, we have video cameras that can capture an actual murder as it’s being committed, as well as fingerprints and DNA to confirm the murderer’s identity.
So to establish a case, we need firm evidences, whether they be actual eye witnesses or video cameras, for example, or both. This is where the prosecution team in Zimmerman’s case faltered: they had no eye witness to prove that Zimmerman murdered Martin, and any circumstantial evidences they presented were more speculative than actual. In other words, they had no real evidence to charge Zimmerman of second-degree murder.
Now, how do we apply God’s principle to our daily life where evidence is required to charge and convict a person? Most of us will never be involved in actual court cases, yet this principle is still applicable in everyday matters. Two ways we can apply this principle to our lives are to:
a) Confirm what we hear or what we see before believing in it or before we pass it to others. If we pass on to others whatever we hear without verifying the facts with reliable sources, that make us gossipers who spread rumors.
b) Give others the benefit of doubt. If someone accuses of your friend of wrongdoing, first ask your friend about the matter before getting upset at your friend. Hear your friend’s side of the story and investigate the matter before drawing a conclusion.
2) Speak the truth
God is a God of truth who never lies, and He desires us to be people of our word. We are to speak the truth, especially when we testify at a court trial. Yahweh does not excuse those who bear false witness against others.
Under the Mosaic covenant, to prevent perjury (the deliberate giving of false testimony under oath), the false witness was severely punished. Specifically, the false witness would receive the penalty they intended for the one they falsely accuse (Deuteronomy 19:16-19).
Let’s take Zimmerman’s case as an example. Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder, which carries a sentence of twenty-five years to life in prison. If a witness falsely testified in his trial and was found out by the judge, then that false witness should receive the penalty of a second-degree murder: twenty-five years to life in prison. If our government punishes false witnesses in accordance with God’s laws, just imagine how many innocent people would have been spared of false accusation and a wrongful conviction.
If we claim to be sons and daughters of Yahweh, then we must be honest folks, say what we mean and mean what we say. If we are ever called to the witness stand, we have to tell nothing but the truth to the best of our ability. If we are unsure of something, then we should not claim it to be the truth.
3) Side with the truth, even if it puts you in opposition to the majority
God’s Word commands, “You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; neither shall you testify in court to side with a multitude to pervert justice.” (Exodus 23:2, WEB) What this ordinance means is that we should not side with the crowd when the majority is wrong. If we side with the crowd simply to be counted among the majority even though the majority is wrong, then we would pervert justice.
We should always side with the truth, even if it means that we are the only ones standing on the side of truth. We are to side with the truth even when others around us pressure us to be on their side. This takes a lot of courage, indeed. But isn’t the truth worth it?
In Zimmerman’s trial, the six-member jury sided with the truth, even when their verdict went against the opinion and belief of many. They were courageous to choose to stand on the truth’s minority side. The truth was: Zimmerman could not be convicted of murder when there was no evidence to prove that he committed murder beyond a reasonable doubt, while the strongest circumstantial evidences support his claim of self-defense.
One juror believes in her heart that Zimmerman got away with murder but she had to acquit him because there’s no evidence to convict him. The feelings of our hearts cannot be trusted, as “the heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) This is why we need evidence, not emotions, to convict the right person.
4) Deliver justice to everyone, regardless of any such factors as their social status, race, or gender
Yahweh loves righteousness and justice, which are the foundation of His throne (Psalm 33:5, 89:14). Justice is fairness, and the truthful administration of what each person deserves without partiality or prejudice, whether it be at one’s home, workplace, or at the court of law.
In a criminal case, justice has to be served to and by all parties involved. The prosecution has to identify the right suspect to the best of their ability and provide enough solid evidences to establish their case and charge the suspect. They should not target a suspect because of their race, age, or social status. For instance, if tragedy struck between a white man and a black man, we should not automatically assume that a crime has been committed. If a crime was indeed committed, we should not instantly assume that race was a factor or the only factor that led to the crime.
Many, if not most, believe that Zimmerman murdered Martin because Martin was African American. In other words, they claim that Zimmerman (who is Hispanic) is racist and thus targeted Martin in hatred. But what is their evidence? Zimmerman’s defense team pointed out that quite contrary to the public’s claim, Zimmerman mentored to African American boys, and his girlfriend and prom date in high school was an African American girl. He also openly spoke out against the police to seek justice for a homeless African American man who was physically assaulted by a white youth, the son of a police lieutenant. He went into black churches to gain supporters to get the perpetrator charged. If you ask me, these are circumstantial evidences to prove Zimmerman is not a racist.
Outside the court, we should all treat others equally. We should not stereotype a person because of their race or gender or age. For instance, if we hear of trouble at work, we should not automatically think, “That black guy must have done it,” or “A woman couldn’t have done it.” The fact is that any person of any race, gender, or background can commit any crime.
5) Do not convict the innocent
Yahweh says, “Keep far from a false charge, and don’t kill the innocent and righteous: for I will not justify the wicked.” (Exodus 23:7) God does not approve of convicting the innocent or acquitting the guilty, and neither should we, if we call Him our Father.
However, from the fact that Yahweh required His people to have at least two witnesses to establish a case, we see that the sin of convicting an innocent person is more serious than the sin of acquitting (or failing to convict) the guilty. In other words, it’s better to acquit the guilty rather than convict an innocent person if we cannot have evidence to support our case. To make certain we convict the right person, we need evidences to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the guilt of the suspect. If we do not have enough evidences to convict a person, then we should not do so, even if that person is guilty.
In Zimmerman’s case, he was rightly acquitted by the jury of all charges because the prosecutors failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman was guilty of second-degree murder, or even manslaughter under Florida law.
Outside the courtroom in everyday matters, we should avoid “convicting” the wrong person as well. To do so, we must not draw hasty conclusions before gathering all the facts. If someone tells you that your friend is backbiting you, don’t convict your friend. Ask them first. If you don’t want to confront them, then don’t convict them, either. If something is missing from your home, don’t convict anyone of stealing it. You may have misplaced the item. If it were indeed stolen, then investigate first before confronting or convicting anyone without evidence. It all boils down to evidence.
6) Your judgment will be measured to you
If you know that you would be judged the way you wrongly judge others, would you still hastily draw conclusions in condemning others? If you would be condemned by the rash words you utter, would you still speak without thinking?
Indeed, we will be held accountable for any wrongful judgment we make about others and for any rash words we speak. Note what Jesus said:
“Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. For with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2)
“I tell you that every idle word that men speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37)
Are you absolutely certain, beyond a reasonable doubt, that George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin in hatred? Can you bet with your own life that Zimmerman is guilty of murder?
The jury could not, so they pronounced this lawful verdict: Not guilty.
Evidence: this is the bottom line. If you have no undeniable proof to convict anyone, whether it be Zimmerman or your next door neighbor, then your judgment will return on your own head when Jesus Christ returns to judge all of humanity.
7) Ultimate justice lies in Yahweh’s hands
If you feel that our justice system is a failure where justice has not been delivered on behalf of all victims, here’s good news for you: Yahweh will bring to light every deed of humanity, good or bad, done openly or in secrecy, and will deliver the perfect judgment for all cases. No one will escape the final judgment of God. If any person sins against a fellow human being and is not justly dealt with in this lifetime, rest assured that Yahweh will deliver full justice on behalf of any and all victims. We may fail at justice, but God will not. Ultimate judgment lies in His hands. This is a great hope of all justice-seekers that we must always hold on to!
Since final judgment lies in the hands of our almighty Creator, then we should not feel defeated when we or anyone we know have been wronged and not received justice due us. In the meantime, as we wait for the day of God’s justice, it is our duty right now to conform to God’s justice as best we can, whether it be in the courtroom, at home, at work, or with our friends at play. We are to be just to everyone in our dealings, speak the truth and side with it, and not hastily draw conclusions regarding any person without evidence lest we commit the sin of convicting an innocent person.
Now, the concluding question regarding the Zimmerman case in light of God’s justice principles is: Did George Zimmerman’s case conform to God’s justice? No and yes. No, because the prosecutors charged Zimmerman without having evidences to support their claim. However, the case concluded in accordance with God’s ordinance. Under the law of God and of humanity, people are innocent until proven guilty. Zimmerman was not proven guilty, so he remains innocent. The jury therefore rightly acquitted him of all charges, and we should respect and accept their judgment.