By Dietrich Gruen
We know of many needs in the world around us: food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, healthcare for the infirm or disabled. But have you ever considered justice as a category of need?
Consider these scenarios:
- Someone I know borrowed money for a proper funeral for his mother. He was given a 305% interest rate on a title loan, causing him and his family to eventually lose their car, a job that depended on that car, and almost their marriage.
- One individual had to borrow dowry and other funds for a proper wedding of their only daughter, only to go auction off another family member to repay their ever-mounting debts.
- Another family had to work off debts incurred by the father’s illness so they sent their kids into low-wage jobs—never to return for two years—as the loan interest rates rose and other payments for service continued.
The first story unfolded in my office where I counsel Benevolent Fund applicants. The other two stories I heard at the annual Global Prayer Summit in Washington, DC last April. The effect on me was at first shock, then disbelief, and then outrage. How could such injustice happen today? Is it ever right to indenture servants in a free market economy? And what if the fight for justice for widows, orphans, rape victims, and modern-day slaves has to go through a corrupt legal system where money trumps all?
According to an advocate for International Justice Mission, injustice is the abuse of power to take from another the good things that God intends for them: life, liberty, dignity, and fruits of love and labor. What do you think of this definition? Would this fit the victims of injustice that we see in the Bible? Check out the example where King David was the victimizer of Uriah and was confronted by Nathan (2 Samuel 11-12), as well as the one where David did what was right and just for his people by his public cabinet appointments and by ordering his private internal affairs (2 Samuel 8-9). Elijah confronted Ahab for seizing Naboth’s vineyards (2 Kings 21). Likewise, Jesus confronted tax collectors and the military that extorted from the poor (Luke 3:12-14).
What about injustice in recent history and today? Frequently, injustice is systemic and institutionalized into the very fabric of society so that it is very hard to see, much less confront or redress. Examples of this are the historic racial inequalities of the American South, impediments in the race to equity in Madison, and abortion.
Is there hope?
Here’s what Isaiah 42:1-4 has to say about our hope for justice, foretelling Jesus:
1 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will bring justice to the nations.
2 He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
3 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
4 he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”
Jesus is our ultimate hope for justice on this earth. God is just—he demands a righteousness that we cannot uphold. So in his mercy, God sent himself through Jesus to die on our behalf, resolving the punishment for the injustice that we have caused. Now, in Christ we are righteous before God and can participate freely in a relationship with him. We also are free from the bondage of sin to become more like him every day.
If God desires and demands justice, it means that we do, too. We know that Christ will come again as King and set all things right. However, we live in a world still affected by sin and therefore prone to injustice. As Christ’s ambassadors, we must seek, demand, and fight for justice just as Christ has done for us.
What Can I Do?
1. Justice Day
Jon Good, a director of church mobilization for the International Justice Mission, will be our guest teacher during both worship services this Sunday to address issues of injustice and mobilize our faith community. After services, join Jon in Micah A for a lunch and workshop. You’ll learn more about how God is using International Justice Mission nationally and globally to transform justice systems and fight injustice. Find out how you can be an advocate for people experiencing injustice around the world. RSVP here.
2. Pray, Donate and Learn
Take practical and effective actions to fight injustice and advocate for justice in your daily life at dailyjusticeapp.com.