I'm more interested in ancient thinkers. Maybe there are notable people with such views who lived before Jesus.

I will use the term friendliness as a treatment of someone as a potential friend. And a friend is the person whom you wish well-being and believe that person wishes that to you either. I'm pretty sure Jesus did not mean to treat everyone as an actual (which is different from potential) friend (neighbor). Look for the parable of good Samaritan, for example.

If it's unclear, why do I say that Jesus put justice and friendliness in opposition. At first, there was a difference between these two in the time of Jesus. And the difference exists nowadays. It was just to judge and punish someone. And Jesus told us to forgive. Also, look at the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus clearly is against justice and for forgiveness (friendliness).

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 13:48

3 Answers 3


There is a discussion to be had here but I am not sure it is best framed in terms of an opposition between justice and friendship.

Jesus' requirement is that human relations should exhibit and be governed by agape (caritas), which means an attitude of mind and corresponding practice that are primarily and inherently altruistic. A key point here is that agape, unlike friendship (philia), is not or need not be mutual. Agape is required of me towards you whether we are friends or not and even if we do not know each other - as when I set aside a portion of my income to support charities or appeals and will never know the recipients.

Further, agape is individual-blind in the sense that it requires no emotional attachment to or knowledge of its object. This is not the case with friendship. I cannot form a friendship with somebody whom I do not even know and have never even heard of.

As for justice, there is no inherent tension between agape and justice. If X takes from Y an item without Y's consent, say Y's laptop, all else equal it is a requirement of justice, as binding on a Christian as on anybody else, to render Y his due, remove the laptop from X's illicit possession and return it to Y. If I am Z, the person who does this, I act justly towards Y, returning to Y his or her laptop, without any withdrawal of agape from X. Even if I secure X's punishment, I may act agapeistically - with genuine altruism - to X by visiting Y in prison and helping Y find a home and a job on release.


Colin Grant, 'For the Love of God: Agape', The Journal of Religious Ethics, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Spring, 1996), pp. 3-21.

  • I am not sure that I agree on the last paragraph. Then, why that sentence even needed, if the person is adequate?
    – rus9384
    Commented Feb 3, 2019 at 7:15

Compassion AND Justice

Thomas Aquinas said “Mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution; justice without mercy is cruelty.” This is not justice and forgiveness in opposition, but in partnership.

Jesus was against the legalism of Jewish leaders at the time, who focused on the word of the law to control and oppress, rather than the spirit of the law to alleviate unnecessary suffering, promote harmony and enable large numbers of people to co-exist. He continually tried to demonstrate that there is no true justice without compassion and mercy.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23)

It is clear here that Jesus was not against justice.

Compassion as a necessary companion to justice has been a common discussion in most ancient religions, including Judaism. Hinduism, for example, discusses compassion as a balance to justice, particularly for those who suffer because they did something wrong.

‘There are several words in Sanskrit and English that denote different grades and types of compassion. They are:

  1. Mercy: Forgive the lapses of other. The Sanskrit word for this is Kṣamā.

  2. Compassion: Beholding others with love even when they commit a lot of evil actions. A metal emotion of a compassionate person who always hopes and prays that the evil person will get reformed. The Sanskrit word for this emotion is karu.

  3. Kindness: Act to alleviate the sufferings of others. Compared to compassion, it is more action oriented. The Sanskrit word for kindness is Dayā.’


A number of stories in Hindu culture demonstrate mercy, compassion and kindness for all, including animals, regardless of whether they deserve it - but without abandoning or rejecting justice itself.




  • So, you agree that Jesus was against legalism. In modern sense it feels like justice and legalism are the same. However, I'm actually wondering who else argued against legalism.
    – rus9384
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 6:51

The first Platonic dialogue, or at least the one in which Socrates is youngest, is on Temperance which is contrasted with Justice. A lot of the positive aspects of friendship are attributed to temperance as a virtue. These appear again in the Republic as part of the set that became the Classical virtues along with another contrasting pair: Prudence and Courage.

Temperance contrasts with Justice in that it encourages you to treat selected equals differently, as befits their needs and nature, so it has friendship as an instance. But contrast is not opposition, as the other contrasting pair demonstrates better. One must be prudently courageous if one acts strategically. Temperate justice is equally called for in humane institutions.

Church traditions take these four Cardinal virtues, plus the three specifically Christian virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity, from Paul, as a complete set. Early thinkers tried to reconcile the triad and tetrad, but ultimately they came to be considered separate things. As @GeofferyThomas points out, since Charity is meant for everyone, it is not traditionally friendship, but a more transcendental form of love.

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