God’s Justice, the Solution to Our False Judgments (Romans 3:21–26)
Given that our judgment is false and hypocritical, how can we ever find righteousness and justice? This is the question that leads into the dramatic crux of Romans 3. God’s response is the cross of Christ. God gives his justice/righteousness to us because we are unable to bring justice/righteousness ourselves. God accomplishes this through the cross of Jesus, in which he demonstrates that “he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).
God’s means of accomplishing this is through the death and resurrection of Jesus. “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). God freely chose to accept the cross of Christ as though it were a holy sacrifice of atonement in the Jewish temple (Rom. 3:25). As on the Day of Atonement, God chose to pass over people’s wrongdoing in order to establish a kind of new beginning for all who believe. And although Jesus was a Jew, God regards the cross as an offer of salvation to all people. Through the cross, everyone can be restored to a right relationship with God.
Although we lack righteousness/justice, God has both in infinite supply. Through the cross of Jesus, God gives us the righteousness/justice that restores our broken relationships with God, other people, and all creation. When God gives us salvation, he gives us righteousness/justice.
The righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. (Rom. 3:21–26; emphasis added)
The cross is God’s surprising justice—surprising because although God is not the sinner, God makes the sacrifice. Does this mean anything in today’s secular workplaces? It could be a very hopeful note. In situations where the problems in our workplaces are caused by our own errors or injustice, we can count on God’s righteousness/justice to overcome our failings. Even though we can’t make ourselves right, God can work his righteousness/justice in us and through us. In situations where others’ errors and injustice cause the problems, we may be able to set things right by sacrificing something of ourselves—in imitation of our Savior—even though we did not cause the problem.
For example, consider a work group that operates in a culture of blame. Rather than working together to fix problems, people spend all their time trying to blame others whenever problems arise. If your workplace is a culture of blame, it may not be your fault. Perhaps your boss is the blamer-in-chief. Even so, could a sacrifice by you bring reconciliation and justice? The next time the boss starts to blame someone, imagine if you stood up and said, “I remember that I supported this idea the last time we talked about it, so you’d better blame me too.” What if the time after that, two or three other people did the same thing along with you? Would that begin to make the blame game fall apart? You might end up sacrificing your reputation, your friendship with the boss, even your future job prospects. But is it possible that it could also break the hold of blame and judgment in your work group? Could you expect God’s grace to take an active role through your sacrifice?