Justice in the Church
The true meaning of justice
Justice and love. This is what Jesus is calling for in Luke 11:42-46. Without these, woe are we!
Justice and love go hand-in-hand. Justice is not revenge, nor is it punishment. It’s fairness. Love is the heart of Christian living; justice is its hands and feet.
Justice is not fairness as in “anything is okay as long as no one gets hurt”. If it’s not in accordance with the laws of God, people do get hurt. Not even the smallest sin can be justified. The sinner gets hurt by his separation from God, even if he or she does not recognize the separation. The target of the sin gets hurt of course, as does the whole Body of Christ, because the effect of the sin ripples farther than any of us can see.
Sometimes we think that justice means retaliation. It’s “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth”, but this is an unredeemed sort of justice. When Jesus came to redeem the world, he gave us the Golden Rule of “do to others what you’d like them to do to you, even though they might not do it back to you, because you love your enemies and are willing to go the extra mile for them”. He raised us above the old attitude of “do to others what they did to you, ha-ha, now we’re even.” Justice means protecting ourselves from further harm without a spirit of vengeance. We care about our enemies while taking good care of ourselves.
Sometimes we think that if no one demands their God-given right to be treated fairly, it’s okay to overlook injustices, or if we don’t see a way to resolve the unfairness, it’s okay to do nothing about it. This is why employees are often drastically underpaid for their skill level, women are stereotyped as less capable than men, expertise gained by experience and self-education is not as “good” as a formal degree, bad-mouthing and insults and other abusive treatments are dismissed as merely someone’s management style, etc. — in the Church! Woe are we for the injustices of society when we are not teaching what true justice looks like by our examples!
True justice is described in Romans 2:8. “Affliction and distress will come upon everyone who does evil.” This is not the punishment of a revenging God. It’s a “woe to you” reaping what you sow. God’s anger is based on a genuine concern for those who are caught in the traps of sin. He’s upset about the choices we make that cause our woe-full self-inflicted anguish.
The challenge before us is to learn what we can do about the injustices that God calls to our attention, then discern when and where and how to take action, caring for the victims and also caring about those who are committing the injustices. If we don’t say yes to this challenge, woe are we!
© 2005 by Terry A. Modica