What is Justice? Part 1

Genesis 4:9, “Am I My Brother’s Keeper?” 

Proverbs 28:5, “Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully.”

Micah 6:8, “He has shown you, O mortal, 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.”

Zechariah 7:9, “This is what the LORD Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.'”

Proverbs 29:7, “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.” 

Isaiah 1:17, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” 

Justice means different things depending on who you ask. But as a Christian, a good litmus test of where you are spiritually is to define what you think Justice is.

I have a humble confession to make. I can be obnoxious (I am sure in many ways but we will just focus on one way) when it comes to justice and how I think the world should be. I discovered how obnoxious I could be while reading a book by one of my favorite authors, Gary Thomas. In his book “Sacred Pathways,” Mr. Thomas talks about how we all have different worship styles and personalities in relation to God and others. These styles directly effect how we interact in the world. I discovered I have an “Activist” personality. Believe it or not, some people find the Activist personality taxing to be around. When everyone else is making polite small talk, I am the person who is likely to bring up sex trafficking of children. Truth and justice are pretty high on my values list. 

I went to a small school up until 5th grade where the unspoken rule was if you did not like someone, you just stayed in your separate corners. The children respected the teachers and did as they were asked. In 5th grade I attended a new school. It did not go well. The kids bullied each other and were disrespectful to the teachers. I could not comprehend this new reality. My issues were not legalism or the “finger sins.” It was my inability to cope with the breakdown of human decency and respect. My mantra became “You do not act like this. You do not treat people this way.” I felt personally responsible to stand up to every injustice. I was miserable. I tried so hard to right all the wrongs and stand up for what was right, that I became a target. I was fighting with my classmates everyday. The school counselor became concerned for me and started pulling me out of lunch to eat with her. She had countless group  sessions with the kids I fought with the most. She eventually had a frank meeting with my parents in which she told them that I was not adjusting to my new school well and something had to give. It would seem, the world was not going to just fall in line because I said so.

I have noticed that Christians often disguise greed, hard-heartedness, and contempt as justice.

I mellowed out some as the years went by, but I never adjusted to the school I was in. I continued to befriend the outcast. I even had a “boyfriend” throughout my middle school years that I had zero interest in. He was one of the kindest, most eccentric people I had ever met but he was also a social pariah.  So, obviously I had to agree to be his girlfriend. My friends developed a good-humored-with-a-side-of-mocking nickname for me throughout the rest of school, “Virgin Ears.” The nickname had many layered meanings which are easily deciphered. Surprisingly, despite all the “Justice League” behavior, I only had Jesus’ version of justice half right.

I have noticed that Christians often disguise greed, hard-heartedness, and contempt as justice. True justice does not just apply to you and the people you deem to be deserving.

True justice is not simply people behaving like civilized human beings and the world getting what it deserves, good or bad. True justice is seeing your neighbor’s plight as your plight regardless of whether it actually involves you. It is less concerned with what has happened to you and more concerned about what is happening to other people. Yes, I had a pretty good grasp on of treating people with respect and love but I also wanted to make sure everybody else did their part too. I did not have a lot of grace for anything I deemed to be unfair or weak.  No one was going to take something from me they did not deserve or work for. No one was going to get my sympathy if they could just pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

We get so caught up in the idea of injustice caused to us, that we ignore the true injustices inflicted on others.

I am ashamed of my past judgments and beliefs.  I was compassionate and loving for the individual, but I had rigid and hard-hearted beliefs on larger groups of people and concepts that I thought were causing injustice towards me and society. Yes, I could give to charity on my terms but how dare anybody take my money by force, such as taxes and give it to somebody that did not “deserve” it. 

We get so caught up in the idea of injustice caused to us, that we ignore the true injustices inflicted on others. To truly follow Christ, we should no longer be concerned with the things we believe the world or God has wronged us in someway, but more concerned about how we may help others.  Through doing this, we may do what the early church in Rome did (as they were being burned at the stake) and overcome the injustices done to us through compassion. We must be different from the world. If we pick up the sword to fight injustice, then we will “die by the sword (Matthew 26:52).”  If we pick up bread and feed those who we see as unjust, we will truly be different from the world. True justice leads to conversion not to condemnation.  

As Christians, we are our “brother’s keeper” and justice remains in the hands of God. May we all be more mindful of our how we seek Justice in this world.

 

May your path be lit.

Heather Parker
Heather has a B.S. in Psychology and is a certified Life Coach. She enjoys spending borderline unhealthy amounts of time with her husband and daughter, pondering God’s mysteries, movies, travel and may have a debilitating addiction to books and hot baths.

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