Christianity is often associated with several key concepts, two of which are love and justice. However, it is crucial to define these two terms to arrive at a clearer understanding. This paper seeks to discuss the Christian view of love and justice.
What is love? More importantly, what is Christian love? What are the characteristics of Christian love? Paul B. Henry enumerates the characteristics.
One, love is “voluntarily given.” It is not forced, or demanded. Christian love is all about willingness to give and share. One cannot seek love; it can only be received if it is willingly delivered. It cannot be called love if it is by force or manipulation. One should not be compelled to submit. Love is only love when it is willingly given; it cannot be derived any other way. Suppose a woman is engaged to be married to a man her parents chose for her. She does not love this person, but she will marry him. The marriage may demand her to love her husband, and she might. However, this is not real love. Real love is not demanded or demanding. It is always willing.
Second, love is “personally mediated.” Christian love is personal. There is no such thing as loving impersonally. Since love is voluntary, it follows that is also personal. It is simply because when one willingly gives something, it automatically denotes a personal decision. Say for example, a college student decides to give a friend a gift, even when there is no occasion.
The gift comes from the willingness to give, and the act of giving is personal decision. This person decided to give a present out of her own free will. In turn, the choice of the gift is personal as well. Love is personal insofar as it exhibits the exercise of one’s free will.
Third, love always entails sacrifice. One wants give up something for the welfare of another. Suppose a mother has enough money to purchase a new pair of shoe to replace her old, worn pair. At the last minute, however, her child needs something for a class project. The mother will then postpone the purchase of the shoes to give way to her daughter. Because there is no extra money, the mother will put the child’s need first. That is sacrifice.
Lastly, love is “beyond ordinary moral obligation.” To begin with, it is not an obligation. If one is feels the need to fulfill an obligation, it is not voluntary. It is not personal, either. It is because there will be an external factor that will burden to oblige.
Now that the main characteristics of love have been discussed, justice should also be elucidated. What characterizes Christian justice?
First, justice should apply to all. It is “universal, eternal and objective.” Since God is the Supreme Being that reigns through all the creatures of the earth, justice should also cover everything that God created
Second, justice should also be contained within a specific social structure. God’s creations are diverse, and the people themselves are diverse. If justice was constructed as such that it was too general, it would not appeal to the specific attributes. Justice may be universal but it is not general.
Third, justice provides methods and guidelines that when followed, it will further the premises of justice. Take human rights, for example. If human rights are honored, people will be respected and treated as individuals, and when human beings are treated as human beings, there is justice.
Fourth, justice is objective and stands apart from human intervention. The rules of justice will not be bent because of human volition. It can stand alone, and must be applied to all. Subjectivity can only cause injustice. As was earlier mentioned, justice is universal yet specific.
The characteristics of love and justice have been dealt with, and the focus is now on both concepts. How are love and justice related? Can they exist together? How does love and justice differ? How are they similar?
According to Henry, “love and justice cannot stand juxtaposed.” It is because love may transcend the very concept of justice, but it cannot be sustained with something less that justice. Both concepts are related but the relationship between the two cannot be called equal. It is not equal because the premises of one concept may exceed or fall short of the other.
For example, justice can exert power to achieve its desired effect, but love cannot do the same. As was earlier discussed, love must be voluntary. It cannot demand results. It must not resort to force to establish its ends. On the other hand, justice exerts power to maintain its characteristics. For one, for justice to subsist in a specific social order, power must be applied.
David Tracy also points out a dependency between love and justice. Justice needs love in the sense that it must not be abusive of its power. The two concepts should co-exist in a way that both can manifest their differences but at the same time, highlight their similarities. Tracy writes: “Love should empower all Christians to struggle for the self-affirmation intrinsic to the struggle for justice…”
Here in this statement, he describes that love can fulfill its end, an end that is needed in the fulfillment of justice. He also states that love should always consider justice, because without it, it can be overtly “sentimental.” Moreover, justice should also be with love because it might be too preoccupied with power. It might be “self-righteous.”
Love and justice are indeed two important and related key concepts of Christianity. Love is willing, it is deeply personal, it entails self-sacrifice and it is beyond an obligation. When one says “God is Love,” these characteristics come to mind. God’s love is willing; He does not demand love from His people. He wants His people to love Him willingly.
Despite the number of people He created, His love for each and every one is personal. He sacrificed His own Son to save the people from sin. Lastly, He loves not out of obligation; He loves because He wants to. In addition, God is universal and eternal, and His terms of justice are objective. These two concepts come from God, and these concepts describe Him too. This is the Christian view of love and justice.
Henry, Paul. “Love, Power and Justice,” Christian Century (1977): 1088.
Tracy, David. “God is Love: The Central Christian Metaphor,” The Living
Pulpit 1, no.3 (1992): 10.
Paul B. Henry, “Love, Power and Justice,” Christian Century (1977): 1088.
 David Tracy, “God is Love: The Central Christian Metaphor,” The Living Pulpit 1,no. 3 (1992):10.