I will raise up for David a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely
and do what is just and right in the land.
from Jeremiah 23:1-6
Virginia City folklore incorrectly claims that in all of the United States there are only two statues of Lady Justice without a blindfold, one of which outside the Storey County Courthouse, Nevada’s oldest continuously operating courthouse. The figure was erected in 1877, following Virginia City’s great fire of 1875, which destroyed the wooden courthouse; her original cost of $236 would translate to about $5,420 in 2018. Some wags say “Sighted Justice” was chosen to represent frontier justice (i.e., extrajudicial punishment) or that a determination of a litigant’s economic or social status was made before rendering judgment. Although Lady Justice commonly wears a blindfold, prior to the late 16thcentury, she was depicted as having her eyes uncovered and a couple of dozen courthouses depict justice without a blindfold.
Are justice and righteousness the same thing? The concept of “Justice” has been embodied in the principle of “an eye for an eye.” The theory of retributive justice is that the severity of the punishment is proportionate to the seriousness of the offense. Yet, “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world to be blind.” (Frequently attributed to M.K. Gandhi)
However, if a law is unfair, is it righteous to follow the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law? Then mitigating circumstances should be considered; mercy and compassion may temper an unjust law. Even harder is to follow God’s example of love and unmerited favor.
Justice is getting what you deserve,
Mercy is not getting what you deserve, and
Grace is getting what you don’t deserve.
Each Sunday at Reno First we are directed not only to seek justice and love kindness (also translated as mercy), but also to emulate God’s love and grace, when we sing Jim and Jean Strathdee’s song with lyrics derived from Micah 6:8 (NIV):
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
by Nancy Wong
Photo Credit: Jay Stuart, “Sighted Justice,”
at the Storey County Courthouse, Virginia City, Nevada
As you go about your day, keep your eyes open.
What does “Justice” look like to you?
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