What is Justice?

Justice. When I was a little kid, my idea of justice was mostly characterized by superheroes. Superman and Wonder Woman who’d see the wrong in the world, fight it, and always catch the bad guys in the end. It was adventurous, exciting, and a bit dangerous . . . but it always turned out peachy. Justice is putting things right.justice league

When I was a bigger kid, my idea of justice was set to patriotic background music. Each day at school we proclaimed this land to be a place of “freedom and justice for all!” And I took it to be a given: Everybody here gets  justice. Woo-hoo! Yippee! Justice is freedom.

And then, as I grew older, I think a general idea of judicial justice crept in. Justice had to do with things being fair, things being right. It was pretty cut and dry. Pretty obvious. And, I assumed, for the most part pretty well-established. Justice is fairness.

But then in college, during an Intervarsity weekend conference, I got a shocking wake-up call. I didn’t realize at the time that it was going to be one of the most influential weekends in my life. But that weekend I learned that justice is biblical.

And it wasn’t a feel-good lesson. There weren’t patriotic songs bursting forth in my heart. My assumptions and pat-myself-on-the-back good intentions were all being torn up. Justice meant more, demanded more, than I’d ever realized.

It meant opening my eyes to painful realities I’d rather not see. Realities not just in the past — in history books — but in the present. In our world. In our country. Today.

It meant empathy: learning to really step into the dark experiences of others.

It meant looking at systems and long histories rather than simply justifying my own mostly innocuous actions.

And it meant really seeing the “teeth” in passages of Scripture — the far-beyond-feel-good nature of passages demanding that God’s people distinguish themselves as protectors of the vulnerable, as voices for the voiceless. As people who uphold human dignity and prize it far above material gain, comfort, or personal pleasure.

“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).

Justice, mercy, humility . . . these are required of us. So often I think we neglect to take these seriously. We relegate this verse to “inspiring campfire song” status and don’t let it get too close. We tame it rather than see its teeth: These traits of justice, mercy, and humility? They’re serious business. They’re what we’re to be characterized by. They’re to be at the core of who we are. We’re called to be the real “justice league” on this planet.

So what is biblical justice? Books upon books are being written about it. Conferences are held to discuss it. Ministry organizations are built around it. And this month on my blog – and through my new Flourishing Faith devotional study Shine Your Light – we’ll explore it just a bit. I hope our conversation inspires you, convicts you, and enables you to listen to God’s Spirit leading you to live out justice in your own life. For me, living biblical justice is an ongoing journey, one small step at a time. Will you join me?


2 responses to “What is Justice?

  1. Thanks! Wonderful. Chet Wood

  2. Pingback: Week Links #14 | jamie calloway-hanauer

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