In a land 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 to hold ourselves accountable for our actions. I would even go so far as to say that a hunger for justice is one of the qualities given us that affirm our having been created in the divine image and that 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.
“So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead. We all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves. We look for justice, but find none; for deliverance, but it is far away” (Isaiah 59:9-11 NIV).
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.
“So justice is driven back and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter” (Isaiah 59:14 NIV).
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 nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey” (Isaiah 59:15a NIV).
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 looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, He was appalled that there was no one to intervene…” (Isaiah 59:15b-16a NIV).
The Lord esteems justice: It matters a lot to Him. Since it matters a lot to Him, it ought to 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 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” (Isaiah 59:20 NIV).
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 preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:19 NIV).