Justice?
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Mar
12

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?    Micah 6:8

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.       Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

     Webster’s defines justice as: the conformity to truth, fact or reason; the quality or characteristic of being just, impartial or fair; the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims; the assignment of merited rewards or punishment.  This idea of fairness, impartiality and conformity to truth, fact or reason is indeed an interesting one.  How does one come to an understanding of justice in a pluralistic society? 

     Justice involves seeking lawful equality without respect to persons.  Theologians such as Walter Rauschenbusch and Reinhold Niebuhr struggled with how justice is dispensed in cultures where the political, economic and social structures are designed to reward people based upon their contribution to the system and therefore end up perpetuating the power of the wealthy over the poor.  The system, in this sense, promotes inequality and thus injustice.  The structures of a culture are reflections of those who create and maintain them.  It is within these social structures that these theologians located the corporate dimension of human fallenness as revealed through social institutions that are a contradiction to the biblical idea of justice as equality. Augustine spoke of justice as a basic principle that bonds societies together.  Yet if the laws privilege some above others, are these laws just?  Can justice exist where the inherent worth of the individual as made in the image of God is not valued?  Is the church required to reform the institutions of society? 

            Historically Christians have been split on these issues.  Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Al Sharpton, Charles Stanley, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Billy Graham are just a few examples of the varying views on biblical justice amongst Christians.  Biblical justice has always had social, political and economic dimensions.  The people of God, by virtue of their relationship with a God who has revealed himself as righteous and holy, have a heritage of responsibility to each other and the world around them.  That heritage has meant carrying the witness of justice into every area of life, be it social, political or economic.  It is a prophetic witness that often speaks against the culture as well as suffering the injustices of the culture.  This witness is both individual involving the personal and business lives of Christians, and corporate, engaging the church in the needs and concerns of the society. 

     Justice knows no boundaries.  It invades the private lives of Christians to inquire about whether we are making money with justice and spending it with compassion.  It questions whether the concerns of the poor and disenfranchised are our own concerns and whether we are applying ourselves where we can to make a difference.  Justice is incendiary and exacting.  What does the church as a community have to offer in terms of justice?  Jurgen Moltmann is an example of a theologian who believes that the answer to this question will force the church to sharpen and readjust its eschatological focus.  In the person of Jesus Christ, the immanent and transcendent dimensions of justice have been forever united.  Moltmann speaks of the church as the new community founded upon the earth by virtue of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The efforts exerted for justice by Christians in every sphere of life are statements of covenant fidelity grounded in the hope that God has and will restore his total creation.  In the meantime, the church is to exercise justice in every relationship.  From a Christian perspective, perhaps the focus should not be on whether a particular society becomes just but more importantly on whether the church is actively pursuing justice in its context?

 

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