He has showed you, O man, 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.
Love is the revelatory power of justice. Justice will have you break your loaf of bread in half to give to a homeless person, but love will inspire you to give the whole loaf away. This does not mean that love should trump justice, but that love should be embedded into justice. An act is done in love if justice has been satisfied. Justice must also be elevated above itself to become one with love. For justice without compassion will lead to the bondage of the law as prescribed by the Pharisees. Once the demands of justice have been met, love will cause a surrendering of self beyond that demand.
Love also “transcends” justice. Love is not in addition to justice. It is a separate entity. If one were to view actions of love, in relation to justice, these actions are “in spite of,” rather than “because of” the act of justice, though the negative term of “spite” can be misleading, for though separate, the two can act in concert, and are the better for doing so.
Love and justice are distinct, but they are part of each other. The goal in grasping the foundations of their being, the root of what love and justice are, is to seek a way to reunite these concepts without perverting them. Paul Tillich writes, “Life is being in actuality and love in the moving power of life….Love is the drive towards the unity of the separated. Reunion presupposed separation of that which belongs essentially together.”
Love and justice, along with power, must exist together in reality, because they are manifested in beingness itself. In other words, love, power, and justice are a part of existence. Our experiences of love, power, and justice are rooted in the eternal, rather than being social constructions in totum. Ontology speaks of what is universal, and what is universal can only be described, for by its very nature, something that is universal becomes “not” when entering into the finite. But what it experienced in the finite, in this case “love and justice,” can describe what exists in the eternal without diminishing the experience of each of these concepts or lessening their eternality. G*d is not G*d if G*d is finite. But we as finite creatures can describe G*d’s eternalness without losing the universalness of G*d. It is in this sense, and as G*d being the ground of all being, that love and justice can be universal, can be, while also displaying various social constructions.
I think of the putting together of love and justice as I would two magnets. The positive and negative fields, when they first touch, only have a slight pull. But as the north and south poles come closer together, the attraction becomes stronger. It is this way with the dynamism between love, power, and justice. They seek union with one another, while remaining separate. They can join, while keeping their identities. And the closer these three concepts are brought together, the stronger the attraction is. Another example that might be used is thinking of a thirsty person drinking water. The human body is made up of mostly water and as we dehydrate we have a seperateness from water. It still exists in us, but in a lesser amount (just as with the unity and seperateness of love and justice). The thirsty person can then get a glass of water, which is separate from themselves, but their own thirst creates an attraction to the water. There is a desire to bring together what is estranged. Where love, when it is not anthropomorphized, cannot feel, it is nevertheless more fulfilled, synergized, when it comes into contact with justice; just as the body becomes satisfied after rehydrating. Quoting Tillich again, “Unity is not identity. An element of separation is presupposed when we speak of unity.” The attraction principle between love and justice is paradoxical to the tension between them as well, for while blending together they must also remain separate.
A further illustration of the relationship between love and justice, in how they can be part of each other, but not dependent on one another, especially when viewing them in an ontological sense, comes to us using the mathematics of infinity. Love and justice, existing as being itself, are rooted in the eternal. Infinity added to infinity will get a person the same result – infinity. Subtracting infinity from itself will get zero, which is illogical, and therefore unable to be defined. Therefore, we can bring together the two infinite concepts of love and justice, adding them together, to maintain their shared ontology of infinity. But if we were to attempt to say that one is the simple addition of the other, and can therefore be subtracted, we will not be able to define what is left, for both love and justice are infinite.
Justice is the framework for beingness. It is “truth.” It is what we human beings use as the foundation for reality. By it, we define right and wrong, what is and what should not be (or what is not). Love is the binding agent of the framework. Just as a wooden frame delineates between the reality of a painting and its unreality, justice does the same for us. Using the same example, the frame would fall apart if not for the tiny nails that hold it together. This is the function of love. Love keeps together the framework of justice in which we ground our reality. G*d, being understood as the ground of all being – the eternal, serves as the well of infinity from which we draw both love and justice from.