Being from diverse backgrounds, we all look at the world so differently, it makes it hard to define problems, let alone find solutions.
There is a big difference in the way different groups talk about justice, or some might use the word righteousness. When those of a conservative bent talk about justice, they usually think about it as “law and order.” It’s usually in the context of an individual who breaks a law and now justice must be done. This means they will get theirs. And if that doesn’t work in the here and now, Christians know in the end Jesus will be ultimate Judge. But the whole discussion turns on the idea of personal responsibility, personal accountability, and even personal punishment. A good life depends on individuals making good choices.
Those considered more left-leaning, talk about justice in terms of broken systems. They use the term for the collective. Society is either just, or unjust. Injustice is when the system doesn’t work for a group of people which then oppresses them. It creates a harder life, with fewer good choices. The idea of justice happens when the system is fixed and people are granted life-giving opportunities. And as those opportunities are given, more and more will make good choices and life will get better.
The church as the opportunity to move the discussion forward, if we will. God’s word speaks of 3 influences that create injustice in our world. The first, the apostle Paul calls the flesh. This is each person’s proclivity to sin. It refers to the brokenness of each individual. The second is “the world.” This, the apostle John seems to refer to as the broken systems of the world. The third influence are the evil forces of Satan and his emissaries.
So, what is the source of injustice in this world? Broken individuals, broken systems and evil spiritual influences that keep people trapped. What’s the answer? And how can the church help create another way?
- Listen to what the other is saying. Create room in the discussion for the truth about broken people and broken systems. Admitting one doesn’t negate the other. In fact, it strengthens the other. A broken world creates broken people and broken people keep creating broken systems.
- Remember, as the church, we know the answer is reconciliation. We may get distracted by political frameworks from time to time, but we have both a ministry and message of reconciliation. Christ came and died to restore us to a relationship with the Creator. In Him, we have one message. A new Kingdom has come in Jesus. As we yield to Him in faith, we are given what we need to pursue His righteousness.
- Offer reconciliation to your world. Take the initiative to step into broken lives and broken systems and proclaim a Savior and Kingdom of love, forgiveness and grace. Take steps to let others know that their concerns are valid. And Christ came because of this brokenness and offers a path back to justice, righteousness and wholeness.
- Don’t negate the influence of evil, we know as Satan. He is the accuser and divider. He prods and pushes the church into seeing people on the other side, as the enemy. They are not. He is. The other, no matter their views, perspective, or background, are loved by God.
- Ultimately, trust in the justice of God. This justice doesn’t just punish the wrongdoer, but frees and restores the world He created and binds the enemy of God. Christ’s life, death and resurrection shows us the power of that reality. And His words; “Come to me, follow me, believe in me”; invite us to that new future.
So yes, both approaches to justice are based on truth. But there is one lie that all political perspectives promote: Humans can affect the change necessary to redeem and restore the world, both in the individual and in systems. Not so. Church, this is what makes our task essential!