It's not the first time Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has had to put her foot in her mouth, but it may be the most telling. At a news conference commenting on the guilty verdict reached in the trial Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd, Pelosi said,
"Thank you George Floyd, for sacrificing your life for justice. For being there to call out to your mom -- how heartbreaking was that to call out for your mom -- 'I can't breathe.' Because of you and because of thousands, millions of people around the world who came out for justice, your name will always be synonymous with justice."
The social media backlash was quick. One of many similar commenters said, "This is not a statement to be proud of. I am appalled that you are thanking George Floyd for being murdered." Seeing the uproar, Pelosi later issued a tweet in an attempt to clarify:
"George Floyd should be alive today. His family's calls for justice for his murder were heard around the world. He did not die in vain. We must make sure other families don't suffer the same racism, violence & pain, and we must enact the George Floyd #JusticeInPolicing Act."
Whatever it was she meant, her statement reveals an even bigger blunder than thanking George Floyd for getting killed. Pelosi's sentiments -- including her clarification -- reveal a worldview where the scales of justice are weighed by the winds of popular culture. Pelosi exhales from the lungs of George Floyd an air of martyrdom to serve the cause of her latest legislation.
In making George Floyd's name synonymous with justice, Pelosi removes justice from the realm of the transcendent and puts it squarely within the kingdom of this world. A justice that takes on the name of people murdered in the latest popular trial is a watered-down justice. It fades with the headlines. For Nancy Pelosi to make George Floyd the embodiment of justice honors neither George Floyd nor anything else, except perhaps an expedient end like Pelosi's Justice in Policing Act. It certainly isn't a justice that is blind, and it certainly isn't the transcendent justice of God.
The Bible paints quite a different picture of the name with whom we should associate justice. David wrote in Psalm 36 that the Lord's "righteousness [a term that can also be rendered "justice"] is like the mountains of God" and his "judgments are like the great deep." Aspah likewise wrote in Psalm 50 that "The heavens declare his righteousness [justice], for God himself is judge!" Justice is a concept so wrapped up in God that any reference that fails to consider him falls as empty as Nancy Pelosi's words.
As the concept of justice percolates in the national conversation, we would all be well-served to ponder a better justice than what Speaker Pelosi outlines. The Apostle Paul wrote about the justice of God, "It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." (Romans 3:26 ESV) Paul recognized that God sent his own son Jesus to be a sacrifice for our sin so that his own justice might be served. Because he is always just and seeks not to serve only that which is fleeting, it is God's name which will always be synonymous with justice. And that, Speaker Pelosi, is something for which we can truly be thankful.