What do you want more than anything else? If your honest answer relates to the area of self (e.g., power, wealth, fame), it will be impossible for you to be a person who strives for justice. In its fullest sense, the quest for true justice is a by-product of the pursuit of God over all other things. The oft-neglected Old Testament prophet Zechariah gives us a portrait of how true justice is expressed. The Jews who had returned to Israel after their exile in Babylon for 70 years wanted to know whether they should continue their practice of fasting and mourning during the fifth and seventh months.
The answer God sent through Zechariah was not at all what they might have expected. Their fasting (or feasting), he said, was not really for the Lord but for themselves, and their religious activity had no spiritual value because they were not accompanied by a concern for the needs of others. The prophetic oracle went on to say that it was for this very reason that their fathers had been carried into captivity:
And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.’
“But they stubbornly refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry.
“‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations, where they were strangers. The land was left so desolate behind them that no one could come or go. This is how they made the pleasant land desolate.’” (Zechariah 7:8-14)
In other words, God was saying that religious observances are of little value if the community has no concern for social justice. Before the exile the prophet Isaiah had dealt with the same issue of fasting and justice. Speaking to the covenant community of Judah, Isaiah had argued that true fasting should not merely be a matter of personal denial but also of social concern: “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?” (Isaiah 58:6).
When true justice is administered, it is expressed in acts of mercy and compassion, particularly for those who are destitute (widows, orphans, aliens and the poor). Real justice, then, involves the application of power and influence to other-centered concerns.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Importance of Justice
Kenneth Boa also argues that our mission as God’s redeemed community is to engage the world with both evangelistic and social action (emphasis added):