96. Our contemporaries who hold high offices in the church describe the Lord's justice in a completely different way. In fact, they say that what renders the faith capable of saving is that the Lord's justice is written into us. The truth is this: because of its nature and origin, and because in and of itself it is purely divine, the Lord's justice could not become part of anyone or produce any salvation any more than the divine life could, which is divine love and divine wisdom. The Lord does come into every one of us bringing his love and wisdom; but unless we are following the divine design in our lives, that life, although it may indeed be in us, makes no contribution whatever to our salvation. It gives us only the ability to understand what is true and do what is good.
Following the divine design in the way we live is following God's commandments. When we live and function in this way, then we acquire justice for ourselves; but we do not gain the justice of the Lord's redemption, we gain the Lord himself as justice. This is what the following passages mean: "Unless your justice is more abundant than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of the heavens" (Matthew 5:20). "Blessed are those who suffer persecution for the sake of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens" (Matthew 5:10). "At the close of the age angels will go out and separate the evil from among the just" (Matthew 13:49), and elsewhere. Because the divine design is justice, "the just" in the Word means those who have followed the divine design in their lives.
The justice itself that the Lord became through acts of redemption cannot be ascribed to us, written into us, fitted into or united with us any more than light can belong to the eye, sound can belong to the ear, will can belong to the muscles that act, thought can belong to the lips that speak, air can belong to the lungs that breathe, or heat can belong to the blood, and so on. These elements all flow in and work with our body parts but do not become part of them, as everyone intuitively knows.
We acquire justice the more we practice it. We practice justice the more our interaction with our neighbor is motivated by a love for justice and truth.
Justice dwells in the goodness itself or the useful functions themselves that we do. The Lord says that every tree is recognized by its fruit. Surely we get to know other people well through paying attention not only to what they do but also to what outcome they want - what they are intending and why. All angels pay attention to these things, as do all wise people in our world.
Everything that grows and flourishes in the ground is identified by its flowers and seeds and by what it is good for. All types of metal are differentiated by their usefulness, all types of stone by their properties. Every piece of land is assessed on the basis of its features, as is every type of food, and even every animal on land and every bird in the sky. Why not us?
The factors that give our actions their quality will be disclosed in the chapter on faith [see especially 373-377].