We serve a God who is perfectly just. Because we are His image bearers, the more we grow into His likeness, the more we will value justice! Yet we will value it in a different way than the world. It won’t be about self-preservation, but about God-glorification and human-sanctification.
This sort of justice is at the heart of the Gospel. Jesus was not concerned with self-preservation, but instead sacrificed His life, in order to redeem sinners. Jesus was concerned about God-glorification, and willingly paid the just price to turn sinners into saints without tainting God’s holiness. Jesus continues to be concerned with human-sanctification. After making our dead hearts alive He helps us grow into his likeness by granting us new eyes with which to view and react to the world.
We see its brokenness.
We see its bondage to sin.
We see its oppression and destruction.
And because we have been given new eyes to see, have access to the wisdom and truth of Scripture, and can offer the hope of a Savior, we have all the more reason to seek justice for the oppressed! We know that the root of all injustice is sin–the sins of selfishness, pride, greed, lust, and anger. We know that idols of power, privilege, and prestige are often built upon the backs of the weak. We also know that while justice will never be fully realized here, and evil often goes unchecked, that God will have the final word. At the cross, or at the throne of judgement, perfect justice will be executed.
The assurance and comfort of knowing that God will someday set everything right, does not negate the need to seek justice now. Jesus instructs us to pray for God’s will to be done on earth, as it is in heaven! God commands that we not only seek justice, but correct oppression. Throughout Scripture He consistently instructs His people to defend the rights of the poor, fatherless, widows, and sojourners. These groups should not be seen exclusively, but as representatives that share the common thread of vulnerability to abuse.
Injustice takes many forms. At times those forms are blatant: the enslaving and raping of women, murderous acts of terrorism, the killing of babies, the abuse of children. Other times, we are too far removed and insulated to really notice it. Injustice is also benefiting off the abuse of those in sweat shops, ignoring victims of war, and being silent rather than speaking up for the voiceless. It is eating and drinking and being merry at the expense of the starving and thirsty and suffering (note: “eating, drinking, and being merry” is not inherently evil, which is why I sought to differentiate that the evilness is when it’s done at the expense of others).
The face of the oppressed has morphed over history and still varies by place. But on this commemorative day, let us consider racial injustice. We must do more than remember Martin Luther King Jr. through a lens of sentimentality. We must remember and grieve over the hundreds of years in which an entire race was abused, treated as property, and considered less than human. We must overcome our proclivities to naivety or defensiveness that assume racism is a thing of the past. The prevalence of racial injustice, shouldn’t surprise us. The earth is full of sinners in need of saving and believers in need of sanctifying. Sin runs deep, enslaving unbelievers and ensnaring the saved–of course racial injustice persists!
Surely, if at one time true disciples of Jesus dismissed the sins of slavery and segregation, there must still be serious blind-spots. Surely white believers must listen to our black brothers and sisters, before we absolve ourselves of guilt. And surely we must make efforts to perceive the residual effects that centuries of racial oppression left ingrained in our social systems. Surely as we learn, the only response of love can be to “correct oppression”.
God cares deeply about racial justice, because He has created all human beings in His image. Whether we consider centuries of flagrant and heinous abuse, continued mistreatment, or the most subtle devaluing, racial injustice is grieving to our Father. It is an insult to His role as Creator and it is rebellion against His command to love our neighbors. This is why the Christian must care–passionately care– about racial justice. This is why white believers must enter into hard conversations, laying aside assumptions until they’ve listened with hearts of humility and a readiness to repent. This is why believers of color must continue sharing, teaching, and rebuking in love, patiently forbearing with the blindness of even their most well-meaning white brothers and sisters.
*If you’re like me and live in predominantly white contexts, here are some practices I have found helpful:
-Follow black leaders (Christian and non-Christian) and preachers on social media. Seek to glean wisdom and understanding from their insights and experiences. I am thankful that there are many wise and godly white leaders speaking to the issue of racial reconciliation, but there will inevitably be blind spots when we only listen to those sources. We must make a priority to listen and learn from those who have actually been on the receiving end of racial prejudice.
-Frequent blogs written by people of color. I try to keep up with the Reformed African American Network. We share common theological convictions, and yet I have learned so much because the writers offer perspectives and applications outside of my “norm”.
-Read biographies and watch documentaries on historical black figures. I spent a year focusing on this with a kid I used to work with, and even though we were reading children’s biographies I learned so much and it fostered great conversations!