The well known Canadian professor Jordan Peterson, famously challenged young people, (who have been inundated since childhood by media, educators and politicians focussing on every flaw and weakness in the history of Western Civilization), with the statement, “Clean your room.” He helped thousands of them discover that maturity, self-worth and hope come from taking responsibility for your own life before striking out to change the world. Or as Charles Spurgeon so eloquently put it: “To attempt national regeneration without personal regeneration is to dream of erecting a house without separate bricks.”
Justice is a huge and contentious issue. People have studied for decades, written books, spoken to thousands, been persecuted and jailed for the cause of justice. I have done none of those things. Who am I to say anything on such a complicated issue? * But I tend to subscribe to both the ‘all I really need to know I learned in kindergarten’ and the ‘keep it simple, stupid’ theories. So, here goes.
On several occasions, over the course of ten years, I was able to visit Burundi, a small, impoverished African country, where injustice abounds. Systemic injustice. Where people are hated, often killed for the tribe they were born into, where there is almost zero chance of improving your lot in life, no matter how hard you work because the very laws are rigged and crooked, where the government is utterly corrupt and there is nothing the oppressed poor can do about it. The result of this injustice is soul crushing, heartbreaking poverty.
When I think of governments systems that have murdered innocents by the million, governments that have divided and destroyed families, corporations that use, abuse and discard people to incease profits – I get angry. I long to see justice. Just a cursory glance at the annals of history reveals that there has always been injustice and oppression. According to the prophet Jeremiah, the heart of man is deceitful and desperately wicked, Jeremiah 17: 9 – 11. One man can cause harm; give that man unlimited power and he can wreak havoc.
I am by nature phlegmatic. The amount of raw emotion in the Psalms has sometimes seemed over the top to me – especially the imprecatory ones that call for destruction of the enemy. To feel anger is an appropriate response to injustice. I have experienced injustice and anger rose up within me and a desire for vengeance along with it. What helped restrain that is God’s wisdom in James 1: 19 & 20, “The anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.” I know that to be true – and yet at times it leaves me feeling unsatisfied. What then does accomplish the righteousness of God? How do we bring about justice?
As a Christian, I believe God is both good and sovereign. How then does evil boldly stalk the earth? Does God see? Does He care? Although it would be easy to be cynical about the subject, evil exists because God gave man free will. We all choose evil – regularly – of our own free will. Psalm 73: 1 – 10. Corrupt politicians frequently pass oppressive laws to maintain power and enrich themselves. Business leaders overlook inhumane work conditions. People exploit and abuse women and children. We all, by sins of commission or omission, choose evil
When I examine my own heart, I realize that I, myself, am frequently guilty of the very offense of which I am accusing someone else. God looks past the actions – He peels back the layers to discover the motive – and when I do the same with my own heart I am often sobered by what I find there. Then, at that point, I cry out for mercy for myself, for the grace to forgive others and for the power to change – to grow in love.
If you don’t know your own heart to be equally guilty, I suggest you may need a better mirror. The word of God is a good one. All the virtue signalling in the world cannot atone for the evil in our own hearts and the resulting behavior.
Does this mean we ignore injustice, sweep it under the carpet till we break our necks on the mound? No, of course not. God hates injustice. But He, and He alone, sees the whole picture. The call on our lives is to follow God wherever He leads. If it is to Sub Saharan Africa to stand against the on-going slave trade, to India to help serve some of the 160 million ‘untouchable’ Dalit people, or to inner cities in the US, where fatherlessness and inadequate schools fail to prepare young people for productive lives, to any and every place where injustice exists, we are called to care, to love, to speak up for the oppressed. There is no shortage of injustice for us to deal with. Our hearts, households, neighborhoods and work environments are good places to start.
Remove God from the equation – try to achieve perfect justice and equality – the utopian dream – and the most common result is chaos and destruction. God’s law, as revealed in His word, is designed to bring justice and harmony in every area of life – personal, family, church, business, government. A godless 20th century saw more death and injustice in the name of justice and equality than any previous century. Ideas have consequences: bad ideas have victims.
If our cry for justice does not deal with our own hearts first, but sends us rushing headlong into vengeance to correct the wrongs of the past, we may end up pulling not only our own houses down around our heads, but our whole civilization. In the short term, God has dealt with the sin problem on the cross – long term – there is a day of judgment coming.
Cry For Justice When the clamor of the battle, sounds and resounds in my mind, whisper your name in my heart. When darkness overwhelms me and I can’t find your face, breathe on the flickering flame in my heart When the stench of death obscures the fragrance of your presence, let my praise rise as incence. When sin destroys my appetite, Lord, be the bread of life for me. Let me taste and see that you are good. Where the enemy assaults and wounds, bring healing and restoration, by your Spirit. Lord, if you were not our strength, if you were not the one who makes us stand, we would fall. Rescue the opressed, Rout the enemy. Tread him down in your anger. As for me, in your blood bought victory. I will stand
God is a holy and righteous judge, and eventually, we will all stand before Him. The wrath of God is not a popular subject in 2020 – we prefer to believe that God understands, that He overlooks sin, but the wrath of God is every bit a part of His character as the love of God. He hates sin and injustice and He is not mocked. I will be eternally grateful that Jesus paid the price for my sin on the cross. In all this, I can find no better words than these by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Though the mills of God grind slowly, Yet they grind exceeding small; though with patience he stands waiting, With exactness he grinds all.
Recently, I was working with several other women, helping to weed a friend’s large but overgrown garden. As we each attacked a section, restoring it to beauty and order, I remembered this song I’d learned in childhood, “Jesus Bids Us Shine…you in your small corner and I in mine.” That’s where justice starts. And just now I remember another childhood favorite, “Jesus Loves the Little Children …red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight…” Those two simple children’s songs, songs that I learned in kindergarten, contain a world of wisdom, truth and, if we practiced them, hope for our fractured communities.
* Although Jesus once told a large crowd that they could not enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless they became like children, the Bible in no way lacks intellectual rigour. if you want to read a scholarly take on the subject of Biblical justice, the link below is to an article by the erudite Tim Keller, https://quarterly.gospelinlife.com/a-biblical-critique-of-secular-justice-and-critical-theory/