“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” – Micah 6:8
I am one of those guys who love action packed movies. If you were to come into my house, you will see Mission Impossible, James Bond and the Bourne series DVD’s on my entertainment center. (Yes, I still have hard copies of these things!). Many of the action movies usually have a hero who is out looking for justice. Most of the time, the plot involves some injustice being done to the hero or their family. However, there is usually no satisfactory legal recourse. So, the hero often has to go outside the regular channels in order to seek “justice”.
But if you were to take a closer look at many of these plots, what the person is seeking is closer to vengeance than justice. This is primarily because the heroes are flowed humans who often have their judgment clouded by anger, resentment or substance abuse. As a result, the protagonist leaves behind a trail of destruction to property and sometimes persons. Now is this justice?
What Is Justice?
Justice can be defined as impartiality, integrity, fairness or uprightness. There is not much right about Robin Hood stealing from the rich in order to feed the poor, stealing is stealing!
God calls believers to practice justice and leave vengeance to Him. In spite of the prevailing culture, God was calling His people to walk in integrity, treat their neighbors fairly and live upright lives.
This week we just observed a national holiday named after the famous American civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In short, Dr. was a man who advocated for racial equality and justice for minorities – African Americans in particular. In a nation which boasts of highly venerated foundational documents such as the Constitution, Bill of Rights and more, Dr. King was a voice in the wilderness crying for justice. The promise of “liberty and justice for all” rang hollow in the ears of those who were denied justice. At this time, millions of minorities lived lives a little bit better than their enslaved ancestors. There had liberty only in word, but in practice faced systemic discrimination that took away access to quality education, high paying jobs and or voting rights. Justice was nowhere to be found.
In what is one of his most famous speeches, and one hailed as one of the greatest speeches of all time – Dr. King drives home the need for justice for the oppressed. Invoking the holy scriptures, while standing in the shadow of the Abraham Lincoln monument he proclaimed, “But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt”. He was calling the nation to live up to its promises to all its citizens. For justice is not just something we should only pay lip service to through empty promises – but something that we practice. Something that we live out, something that fight for. In fact, in this speech, Dr. King uses the word “justice” or “injustice” at least 9 times! Boy was he onto something!
It is not surprising that Dr. King had many enemies. These were mostly individuals and people groups that benefited from the status quo. They were the ones who perverted or denied justice to those we most needed it.
While secular governments or individuals can seek and promote justice, they may do so imperfectly. While the context of the speech is the American society – which claimed to be a “Christian nation”, the institutionalized, rationalized and state sponsored racism, segregation and human rights abuses seemed to suggest otherwise! God calls Christians to seek and promote justice in the society in which we live. One of the most powerful things about the civil rights movement is that it got the support of conscientious individuals from other races and religions. Many people of different races and walks of life not only claimed to stand for justice, law and order – but actually worked for it!
While human beings are corrupt and may pervert justice, God is holy, loving and just. Because God is holy, His sense of justice is consistent and objective. Because He is loving, God’s justice seeks the ultimate wellbeing for all humans. And because God is just – His judgement shows no partiality. As God’s children, He requires us to act justly, as much as He calls us to be holy as He is holy. The Israelites of Micah’s day may have asked God – what do you want us to do? What do we need to do in order to be considered righteous? God responds; ““To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God
This may not be 1963 anymore, but we still all need to see the injustices in our world. Are you aware of any individuals or people groups that are being denied justice? What part are you playing in bringing attention to injustice or helping fight against it? We may not all be movers and shakers like Dr. MLK was, but we can sure play our part.
PS: More on loving mercy in the next piece.