Contributed by Tait Zimmerman
I recently saw a local article confirming what many suspected: crime in Alaska increased substantially in 2017. Alaskans are fed up with crime, the lack of justice, and corruption on the part of our government.
I’ll follow up later on with a few more articles discussing specific issues and talking through some practical solutions, but thought I’d start of by laying the groundwork: The importance of justice.
Isn’t the importance of justice something to be taken for granted?
Not exactly… To be sure, we all innately feel a level of injustice when we experience it. From the greatest books to the best movies, justice is a recurrent theme. Somehow we know deep down that justice should be served, wrongs should be righted, and evil should be punished.
But conversely, it’s also amazing how accustomed, oblivious, and apathetic we can become in the face of injustice toward our fellow man. Our senses can become dulled, and we may not only become numb to the vilest injustice, but even more shocking, perpetrate such evil upon others. History proves this to be true. Many world philosophies despair of justice, conceding an unjust universe as the norm for all ages. Such cynicism regarding injustice leads to radical impotence in the face of evil.
This points to the importance of having a source of justice external to the individual and his society. Any man or group of men can lose sight of justice and even engage in injustice, little by little. Is not apathy in the face of injustice the first step? Does it not place our moral stamp of approval upon those who actively engage in injustice, making us ultimately morally complicit with their actions? Does it not break down our moral immune system to sit idly by?
Yes, it does.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, I have a solid foundation for justice. God, the creator of Heaven and Earth, is just, the standard of justice, and the upholder of justice (whether in this world or the next). Justice matters, because it is something bigger than man and his societies. It is real, objective, and it transcends this world. This just God calls men to be just, to stand up for justice, and to arrange their societies in such a way that promotes and furthers justice.
You would think that this emphasis on justice would be a given common ground with my brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, too often this is not the case.
Sadly, too many of my brothers and sisters in Christ believe something roughly along these lines:
“God in the Old Testament was concerned with justice and earthly things, whereas God in the New Testament is primarily concerned with grace and spiritual things.”
I flatly reject this premise. The same God in the Old Testament who loved justice was also full of grace and mercy. The same meek and loving, gracious and merciful Jesus in the New Testament will also someday judge the living and the dead, whether to eternal life or eternal damnation. The requirements of justice mattered so much to God, that his son had to die a brutal death on the cross to pay the penalty for those of us who have transgressed his perfect standards of justice and believe on his son for salvation.
Not only do we see the recurrent theme of justice in the Old Testament, we see this theme in the words of Christ: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23).
Christ's words echo God's indictment of his people through his prophet centuries before Matthew was written:
“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? [i.e. your religious ceremonies/observances]
Says the Lord… Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:11, 16-17).
Justice should matter to my brothers and sisters in Christ!
In upcoming articles, I hope to get into the nitty gritty details of what we, as lovers of justice, are up against on the local level, and how we can be successful in effecting change.
Until next time…
Tait Zimmerman – Pastor, Valley Fellowship, Wasilla