Justice

Farmville Enterprise June 6, 2018

My dad was an avid skier from New Hampshire who liked to shop at LL Bean for his chamois and plaid flannel shirts. When I was in high school he got me a pair of their original boots. At a party last Christmas I wore them and immediately discovered they were popular among Farmville youth. Initially it made me regret wearing the boots as I wondered if people mistakenly would assume I bought them to go along with the younger crowd. I often avoid things that are super trendy, sometimes even words or phrases.

It made me think that at times it is fine or even good to do or say certain things even if we might be misunderstood. In reading the Bible the past six months the theme of justice has jumped off the pages. Although some Christians worry that a focus on social justice means neglecting evangelism, both constitute important parts of God’s call to us. The word “justice” should not be avoided even if others misinterpret its use. In Hebrew it is found in the Old Testament over 200 times. Something that is just is equitable, fair or impartial. When we think of this in terms of the law we understand that every individual should be acquitted or punished based on the facts without regard for the defendant’s social status, connections, gender or race. The Hebrew word extends to the care or protection that is due people, especially orphans, widows and the poor.

“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) “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’” (Zechariah 7:9-10) “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17)

All of these passages show that the temptation to secure better standing for ourselves or those closest to us is not just a modern phenomenon. Isaiah 58 challenges those who seemed eager for God to come near to them. They humbled themselves yet exploited their workers on the day of their fasting.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:5-11)

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