Justice scales

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According to the 2022 State of Theology report, the percentage of Americans who believe hell is a real place where some people will spend eternity in punishment (59%) has increased from studies in 2020 (56%) and 2018 (54%). In addition, 1 in 4 Americans (25%) say even a minuscule sin deserves eternal punishment.

“An interesting paradox exists regarding Americans’ views of sin and punishment,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “More than two-thirds of Americans believe everyone is inherently good, yet almost as many believe divine judgment will occur in the future.”

If nearly 3 in 5 Americans believe hell is a real location where people are eternally damned, what does that say about their desire for fairness? Whether Americans realize it or not, their search for justice has biblical roots.

Here are three biblical truths that give us a framework for understanding Americans’ hope for moral rightness.

1. A holy God is just

From a young age, children are taught there’s punishment for disobedience. Where does that teaching come from?

While God created all of creation to be good, He gave humans free will to make decisions. He established consequences when Adam and Eve sinned.

In Genesis 3:11, He addressed their erroneous behavior, asking, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” (CSB).

Adam and Eve’s sin separated them from a holy and righteous God. Because God is just, He gave them consequences for their actions and banished them from the Garden of Eden. Since then, when people disobey God, they can no longer spend eternity with God.

That is, unless they believe in Jesus Christ, which leads to the next truth.

2. Jesus faced injustice yet justifies all who believe in Him

Because God could not step outside His character as a holy and just God, He needed Someone to pay the penalty for mankind’s sins in order to be reunited with His people. This meant sending His perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to the world to die on the cross for mankind’s sins.

Throughout His 33 years on earth, Jesus lived a sinless life. He even advocated for and showed compassion to those in society who faced injustices—like the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-29) and the poor and downtrodden (Luke 14:12-14).

He called people to believe in God and repent of their wrongdoings while giving them an honest depiction of what would happen if they chose to not obey God. For example, in Matthew 5:22, Jesus said, “But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Whoever insults his brother or sister will be subject to the court. Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be subject to hellfire” (CSB).

Despite His blameless actions, Jesus was betrayed and crucified in the greatest act of injustice of all time.

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Yet, this injustice was God’s will and paved the way for humans to be reunited with God. Because Jesus bore people’s sins on the cross, mankind can be justified by Jesus’ perfect and loving sacrifice.

This justification means people can have a relationship with God, which will lead to personal sanctification.

3. There’s an ongoing battle of good versus evil

Daily news stories are a reminder of the constant evils of society and the need for people to know Jesus. Yet even those who do not have a relationship with God have an inherent sense of the difference between good and evil. Just as no one wants a serial killer on the loose and parents daily discipline their children, the general sense of right and wrong reveals the need for rules and consequences in society. This upkeeps moral behavior and prevents complete chaos.

Passage after passage of Scripture reveals how God set consequences in motion for the sake of justice and to ultimately protect and preserve His people. While God cannot tolerate sin, He uplifts and justifies those who follow Him. He is not a God who sits around waiting for people to mess up or idly wagging a finger at each of their sins.

Rather, He’s a God of action who calls people to repentance. Because He loves us and wants what is best for us, He desires for us to follow Him. This is our ongoing process of sanctification.

But obedience can be tough to pursue—especially if you’ve ever been barraged by an unfair act of evil. Jesus promised, “Will not God grant justice to his elect who cry out to him day and night? Will he delay helping them? I tell you that he will swiftly grant them justice” (Luke 18:7-8a, CSB).

Moreover, there’s a day coming when Jesus will return to the world to gather His church. God will establish a new heaven and new earth, where evil no longer exists. The battle for good—and ultimately God—will have been won.

Revelation 22:12-13 says, “Look, I am coming soon, and my reward is with me to repay each person according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (CSB).

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on LifewayResearch.com.