In the second of our Stand and Speak series running up to Easter, Andrea Williams comments on what seeking real justice looks like today.
When I was a little girl I wanted to become a barrister because I loved the idea of justice. Of good triumphing over evil; wrongs being put right. I loved the idea of helping those that could not help themselves; of bringing hope.
In Micah 6:8 it says:
“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.”
The appeal of ‘justice’ is clear – it’s why political campaigners love to use phrases like social justice, environmental justice and economical justice.
Christian Concern is not alone in seeing the importance of justice. It’s an expression of our love for others. We want to see people treated fairly. We want to see wrongs put right.
But what is wrong and what is right? How can we know what is truly fair treatment? In society, the battle rages on between ‘equal treatment’ and ‘equal outcomes’. And sharia justice looks quite different to any of the visions within western civilisation.
So even though our society loves the idea of justice, it struggles to agree on what it really is. We’ve abandoned our belief in the one true God who is the source of all morality.
It’s a challenge but also a wonderful opportunity. Because our God is real, the true maker of all things and the true source of morality, Christians are uniquely positioned to help the world understand and enact justice, righting very real wrongs.
Justice – for the vulnerable?
So what is Biblical justice? The Bible – God’s written word – is clear that we should value justice:
Isaiah 1:16-17 (ESV) tells us:
“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause.”
Leviticus 19:13-15 gives some examples of what this looks like:
“You shall not oppress your neighbour or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning. You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.
“You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbour.”
The focus in these verses is very much on helping those who can’t help themselves. The fatherless (e.g. orphans) were particularly vulnerable. So were widows. Hired workers are typically less well-off than those who are employing them. Likewise, God directs his people not to take advantage of people’s limitations – don’t curse the deaf or cause problems for the blind.
But although the spotlight of these verses is on the vulnerable, it’s interesting that justice isn’t only for those who are easy targets. God says to do no injustice in court – neither deferring to the rich nor being partial to the poor. Judges weren’t to be biased to either side of a case but to judge fairly – each case on its merits.
Proverbs 20:10 tells us that “Unequal weights and unequal measures are both alike an abomination to the Lord” – which applies just as much to court judgments as it does the marketplace.
The rich and powerful can and do still use their power to oppress the poor and weak. So Christians do still need to look out for the most vulnerable – even if that’s simply to make sure they’re treated fairly in legal disputes.
The most vulnerable
But who are the most vulnerable in our society?
Although the groups mentioned above still face great difficulties, there’s one group of people in our society that don’t get any say whatsoever in their treatment. They are given no representative in our legal system and have no means whatsoever to right the wrongs done against them.
Every year in the UK, 200,000 babies are aborted. Nearly all of them are killed not because of any threat to the mother’s life, but because they are unwanted.
It’s not the only justice issue our society faces. But it’s one that is very close to our hearts at Christian Concern – and should be for every Christian.
If this injustice goes unchallenged, we are in no position to fight for other injustices. If we think it’s just and fair to end an unborn baby’s life, effectively for any reason, it will be trivial to make excuses for any other injustice we see in society.
Justice for love’s sake
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[i] to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:19-21)
At Christian Concern, we don’t seek justice for vengeance’s sake. We seek justice for love’s sake.
We want to see abortion stopped. We want to see Christians treated fairly at work and in courts. We want to see Christian asylum claims (again, from highly vulnerable people), treated with equity.
But earthly justice can only ever be a weak reflection of God’s perfect, heavenly justice. He alone judges perfectly. He sees all that is done, every deed done and word spoken in secret; every motive of our hearts.
God sees all injustices and will surely, in his perfection, put all things right. That doesn’t just mean giving relief to the oppressed; it also means punishment for the oppressors.
Seeking justice is one way that we love both the oppressed and the oppressors. It’s about showing the perfect justice of the true God and helping people, on both sides of the equation, see their need for God, who is both just and justifier (Rom 3:26).
Speaking of Jesus Christ – not just ‘justice’
That’s one reason why we don’t simply use secular, non-religious arguments when talking about these injustices. Because without God, there is no real understanding of what ‘fairness’ or ‘equity’ is. And without God, the perfect judge, there is no judgement, justice, forgiveness, freedom and hope.
We don’t just want people to act justly now – we want them to know and love the source of all justice: God.
Will you join us in seeking justice?
“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.”
(Psalm 96:11-13 ESV)