In a time of escalating crime and selfish vice, it seems that justice is a fading concept.
Yet one of the virtues for which the human heart craves is justice: the moral imperative to right what is wrong, to lift oppression, and for people to be held accountable for their actions.
Indeed, a hunger for justice is one of the qualities given us that affirm our having been created in the divine image and a desire for a just society is more than a evolutionary blip or sociological coincidence. We are, from our origins, wired to want justice.
But ironically, the fallout of moral relativism is the obscuring of both the meaning and the value of justice. It would seem that in our culture the concept of justice is generally only exposited in criminal law shows and police dramas. Even talking heads shouting at each other on “news” shows can’t quite provide for us for us a clear picture or rationale of justice.
While I am glad that justice is being “dealt” with (sort of), I am sad that it takes such convoluted and confused venues to say something about the matter. The foundations for understanding and valuing justice are actually laid at home in the formative years of our children, strengthened and clarified at church, and understood in practical forms in school.
Of course, television shows and movies only deal with the most heinous and extreme departures from justice. Our limited interest in the matter seems to suggest that we’re only willing to admit that cold, calculated murder is unjust but can’t quite bring ourselves to also acknowledge lying, cheating, stealing, adultery (and other forms of immorality), neglect of children, abortion, and human euthanasia are all also radical deviations from God’s divinely crafted plan for humanity.
“Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men. We all growl like bears; we moan and moan like doves; we hope for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us” (Isaiah 59:9-11 ESV).
It should not surprise us that the consequence of muddying the waters of justice is increased hurt, crime and oppression. It should not surprise us that the illegal forms of injustice increase when injustice increases legally as well, whether we’re talking about banking schemes to win over more borrowers even when they cannot afford the crushing weight of debt or if we are speaking of unborn children in terms that somehow minimize their value, deny their humanity, and treat them as nothing more than inconveniences that people can “choose” to rid themselves of.
“Justice is turned back and righteousness stands afar off; for truth has stumbled in the public squares and uprightness cannot enter” (Isaiah 59:14 ESV).
Those who speak up for the weak, the oppressed, and the helpless are frequently labeled as “intolerant” and “narrow-minded bigots,” deflecting attention from the real issues of injustice (the plights of those who can neither speak for nor defend themselves).
“Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey” (Isaiah 59:15a ESV).
Can we expect God to bless us if we’ve become so “tolerant” that justice is lost to us and injustice is the rule of the land? No!
“The LORD saw it, and it displeased Him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede …” (Isaiah 59:15b-16a ESV).
The Lord esteems justice: It matters a lot to Him. Since it matters a lot to Him, it should matter a lot to us. If Christians value the favor of the Lord then they will seek to be instruments of justice. While He does not desire us to be vigilantes who consider ourselves above the accountability that God-ordained law imposes upon us, He WOULD have us be spokesmen and spokeswomen for truth, even if it risks the favor of our society (which, you’ll remember, is somewhat confused on matters of justice anyway).
And, of course, the first place to begin to implement justice is in our own homes and in our own churches. God’s justice compels us to be men and women of integrity on all levels of life: our service to Him (obviously), our jobs, our school work, our friendships, our relationships with our children, and our relationships with our husbands or wives. Gossip and slander are just as unjust, in God’s eyes, as striking a co-worker. Neglecting our responsibilities as parents is just as unjust as being too harsh. Stealing from God our tithes and offerings is just as unjust as stealing from your neighbors.
But if we’ve found ourselves riddled with unjust attitudes and behaviors, there is the open door God gives us to start over with Him. Although, “He will repay according to what (injustice) they have done” (from Isaiah 59:18), he also promises to receive us if we repent and return to Him humbly.
“‘The Redeemer will come … to those … who repent of their sins,’ declares the LORD. A Redeemer will come … to those … who turn from transgression,’ declares the LORD” (Isaiah 59:20 ESV).
Let justice not be far from you. Make your love for the One Who gave His life for you stir your heart up for the things that He Himself esteems.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19 ESV).
Pastor Thom Mollohan leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.