Five reasons why justice matters
Krish Kandiah shares biblical snapshots that show why pursuing justice, however hard, is crucial for the church
This week I listened to a man tell me how he and his family were forcibly removed from their home and forced to settle in a ghetto on the opposite side of the city under the apartheid government in South Africa. I have met Kosovar refugees whose family members were rounded up and shot because they were from the wrong ethnic group.
My wife and I have fostered children who have experienced domestic violence, yet they were the ones who had to leave their family home and live with strangers. Injustice is not far from any of us if we have eyes to see it and ears to hear people’s stories.
It may be hard to believe, but there are still Christians who don’t think pursuing justice is a worthwhile pursuit for churches. Less hard may be that some churches that preach about the justice of God still do little to demonstrate it. Easiest of all is that those Christians who are spending themselves on behalf of the poor, quickly feel tired out and disillusioned.
But there is hope: let us look at five biblical snapshots that show why pursuing justice, however hard, matters for the church.
1. God is a Just God
He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,
There are a myriad passages we could look at to demonstrate that the God of the Bible is the God of Justice. For example, in Deuteronomy the appropriateness of his actions are all related to God’s steadfast character as one who behaves and acts justly. For Christians our conception of right and wrong is not ultimately based on social norms, or even democratic decision. Our understanding of good and evil, justice and wickedness derives from the very character of God himself.
God has made known his character to us through his words and actions in scripture, and they reveal a God who is fundamentally concerned about a rightly ordered society, about laws that ensure peace and equity and protect the vulnerable. If we are to be a godly people, imaging his character to a watching world must demonstrate this same concern for justice.
Imaging God’s character is one of the many reasons why we launched Home for Good: around 6,000 children await adoption, and more than 9,000 are in need of fostering. The Church is uniquely placed to offer its help to meet this need and give justice to these children – both in terms of finding families to foster or adopt, and providing an excellent community of support to wrap around those who do.
2. God commands us to act justly
The righteous care about justice for the poor,
but the wicked have no such concern.
There is a clear expectation that God’s people will be in contact with the poor and needy and that they will help ensure justice for them. In fact this essential concern is what separates those who are rightly related to God from those who are far from him. It is to be outworked practically in enabling the needy to work and eat (see Ruth and Deuteronomy), to be treated fairly in a court of law or in a place of worship (Exodus 23), or to belong to a family or a community (Galatians 6:10).
God’s people are commanded to do this as a demonstration of true worship. Social justice is as important if not more important in our worship as sacrifices, gatherings and fasts (Isaiah 1, Micah 6:8).
We have been on an eight-year journey in fostering and adopting, and the support of our local Baptist church has been invaluable – we have been really encouraged by the passion with which they have grasped their role as a whole church to care for the vulnerable children in our community.
3. Christ died to satisfy the justice of God
For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
At the heart of the Christian faith stands the cross of Christ. The cross is the supreme symbol that demonstrates that justice is central to our faith. If God was not concerned about justice, the cross would not be necessary. God could simply ignore our sins. But the cross only makes sense if God is a just God. Paul describes the death of Jesus as fulfilling the righteous requirements of the law. In other words, in order for God to forgive humanity – his justice needed to be satisfied.
The cross is also the place where the decisive victory of evil was won (Colossians 2:15). For Christians to live cruciform lives this same concern for justice and demonstrating Christ’s conquering of evil, we should be passionately concerned with fighting for justice in our world.
4. Seeking justice gives a foretaste of the coming Kingdom of God
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
Some argue that working for justice now makes no sense when only human souls and the word of God are going to leave this planet. Everything else is going to be destroyed and then a new heaven and earth are going to replace them.
But seeking justice is a way we demonstrate in this world the breaking in of the coming kingdom of God. This is what we are called to pray in the Lord’s Prayer. We ask that our Heavenly Father’s name would be honoured as God’s kingly reign is revealed in the world.
God is brought honour as God’s reign is demonstrated in our fallen and broken world in the same way that God’s perfect reign is demonstrated in heaven.
At the end of the Sermon on the Mount Christians are sent into the world to shine like lights and to fight corruption like salt. As we do shine and fight we draw a watching world to honour our Father in heaven.
Think of this: through its web of connections, Home for Good has a voice into approximately 15,000 churches. If one family in each of these churches chose to foster or adopt, there would be no children in the UK without a home.
5. One day Justice will prevail
Away with the noise of your songs!?
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
But let justice roll on like a river,?
righteousness like a never-failing stream!
We long for the day when God’s justice is finally revealed. Our longing prompts us to action but our action is not in vain. One day God’s kingly reign will be fully established, his character fully revealed and his justice will rule over all the earth.
The prophet Amos writes about the coming of the day of the Lord: (when God’s justice will be finally revealed) at that stage it is not singing or music that will be of value to God, but a people that will pursue justice.
There are so many reasons to pursue justice as a Christian, and my hope is these five scripture passages will encourage you to look for more. My prayer is that your love of God and your hunger for his word will motivate you to give attention to the cries of the poor and the oppressed around us all.
Dr Krish Kandiah is the President of the London School of Theology and Founder and Director of the adoption and fostering charity Home for Good (www.homeforgood.org.uk). Krish and his family belong to Cornerstone Church in Thame, a café-style Baptist church.
This article appeared in the Spring 2015 edition of Baptists Together Magazine
Hand holding: Vernon Wiley / istockphoto.com
Refugee: Ed Stock / istockphotos.com
Cross: hidesy and jessicaphoto / istockphoto.com