The cry for justice is everywhere. It is not difficult to hear it on any given day. It comes in different forms and from different places; from the Occupy protests across the world, to the fight against human trafficking, from senseless terrorist violence, to the plea for supplies from the local food bank.
It is more than a cry really, as in reaction to a momentary event, but more accurately a long-suffering ache that is anchored in an untenable position. What can we do with this? Is it fair to say that too many of us deafen this cry because no quick solution is near? Mentioned with introductory thoughts in Blame, the Psalms suggest that one day God will answer the cry for justice.
Does this mean we must wait until then before we see any justice on the earth? The answer to this question largely depends on how you define the word. What is justice? I used to think of justice primarily in punitive ways, as something requiring punishment. Only when punishment was served did justice reign. I don’t think that way anymore. Punishment alone offers only fleeting relief to the long suffering ache of injustice.
I now define it simply as “making it right“. This phrase was made popular in Canada by a well known TV contractor. This bruising fellow goes into desperate situations where homeowners suffer injustice by crooked contractors who after getting paid left things undone or cut corners with disastrous results. Mike goes in to “make it right”. Funny, we don’t ever see the other contractors punished, but we do see satisfied homeowners at the end of the day. Modern justice. The ache is silenced.
If we are to see justice on the earth, we can’t be complaining on the sidelines. Rather, we are invited to be participants in making things right. Some perspective would help. If Jesus is truly our example we cannot ignore the following,
“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, `Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
“Then they will reply, `Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’
“And he will answer, `I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.'” (Matthew 25:41-45 NLT)
As the renovation television show honestly demonstrates, justice is not without cost. Making things right costs Mike, the homeowners, the sponsors of the show and the suppliers a lot of money. In this passage, Jesus is talking to people who had the means and the opportunity to provide justice to those whose cry clearly caught Heaven’s ear. Not only this, but he reveals that the one they denied justice to was God Himself! Even more troubling, if there is punishment it is reserved for those who did not act. Jesus identifies both with the ones who ache, and the ones who provide.
We may not be able to right all the wrongs in the world; undo the effects of poverty, political oppression or violence, but we can surely extend a helping hand to our neighbour. Theoretically, if everyone helped their neighbour, would justice not rule the world? It will cost us something. However, it should be worth it to make it right for someone else.