What does it look like? We thirst for it but what does it look like? Does it look the same to everyone? Is it the same to the oppressor as to the oppressed? Is it the same to the mainstream as it is to the disenfranchised? Justice is supposed to be blind, but is it really? Hundreds of years of systematic racism in America would seem to say no. The idea of justice seems to be a human construct, enforced by those who have the power to do so.
In the ancient near east, and in the old testament the concept of justice was simple, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”. Whatever injury I suffer from another I have the right to exact that same penalty upon them. Our legal system today evolved from that ancient code. But Jesus introduced a different concept, “turn the other cheek” (Matt. 5.38-39). Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. emulated that concept, and as a result led a movement that changed things for black people in America forever. Jesus changed the concept of justice… that is, if you want to follow God’s way. Through the Law God proclaimed His justice for us to live by, but it turned out we all were condemned by that justice. None of us could meet the standard. So God instituted a new brand of justice, a new way for us to be in relationship with Him, through Christ. He is our Justice.
So many in our civic leadership: presidents, governors, mayors, etc., are quick to call for peace at the slightest potential of rioting and looting; but are slow to denounce or affect change in practices leading to mass shootings, gun violence and yes, the killing of young black men by police. It’s like the prophet said, “Peace, peace they say, when there is no peace.” (Jer. 8.11), or, as the protestors are saying in the streets, “No justice, no peace!” You can’t allow young black men to be indiscriminately killed and then when people grow angry turn around and say violence is wrong, like you have a moral high ground to stand on. We’re all guilty here.
We, as a society, are guilty; so we have to look somewhere else for authentic justice. But where do we find it? My whole community, city… along with others all over the country are waiting in anxious anticipation for the jury’s verdict of the Chauvin trial to come out. Some are worried about rioting and looting; some are worried about a lack of justice for George Floyd, being shown once again that our lives don’t matter.
But justice is not about revenge or vengeance… justice is about “does my life matter?” In the vast scheme of things do I matter as much as anyone else? Do black lives matter as much as white? Do poor lives matter as much as wealthy? Do female lives matter as much as male? We all just want to know we matter. Although some say our country is built upon the prospect that all lives matter, history demonstrates that all lives do not matter in America. Ask the immigrants, European and otherwise, ask women, ask the original Americans, ask the descendants of slaves…
So we work for justice, for all to be treated fairly; but there is only one place where we can find authentic justice and know that our lives matter, regardless of this world’s circumstances, and that is in Christ. If you are in Christ you matter… maybe not to others; maybe not to the police, maybe not to the landlord or creditor, maybe not to politicians, but you matter to God. In fact, you are of paramount importance to Him. He gave His only Son to die for you. As followers of Christ, we have the moral high ground to seek justice for all, and we must pray for and act and seek God’s justice in the present circumstance. But if things don’t go the way we think they should, we have to trust that His justice will prevail. God says “vengeance is mine, I will repay” (Romans 12.19). To my brothers and sisters I say, “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”. As Christians we are called to seek justice in our society and to ensure that those around us in our daily lives are treated fairly. We have to trust God, and keep working for justice, no matter the outcome. And then we can know peace.
Support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act! it’s in the Senate now. Call your senator!