Friday, May 23, 2008

Justice and Injustice

"You trample on the poor...
I know how many are your offenses
and how great your sins.
You oppress the righteous and take bribes
and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts" (Amos 5:11-12, NIV).

Sometimes the biblical concepts of justice and injustice can be confusing. Christians may believe they are pursuing social justice when they provide food for the poor or tutor at-risk children in an after-school program. Such activities are noble and necessary, but they are ministries of mercy rather than justice.

Christians may believe they are suffering an injustice when they are in a hurry to pay at the local convenience store and the customer in front of them is playing scratch and win lottery games without regard to the people in line behind him. It is annoying and inconvenient, but it is not an injustice.

In the Bible, injustice is the abuse of power. It is using power to deprive someone without power of something needed or deserved (such as money, dignity, or sexual innocence). In the recent past, we have seen the injustice in America's segregation and South Africa's apartheid. In our contemporary society, injustice may look something like this:

*A husband beating his wife
*An employer falsifying paperwork in order to defraud his or her employees of their wages
*A police officer taking bribes
*A teacher or minister raping children
*A mother spending her money at the casino while her children starve

Biblical justice is the proper use of power to protect people from the abuse perpetrated by those who would rob others of what God has intended for them to enjoy. A ministry of social justice goes beyond benevolence; it involves confronting violent liars; it involves risk; it involves uncomfortable situations; it may involve personal loss and heartache.

However, when Christians engage in acts of genuine social justice, they demonstrate the heart of God for the oppressed. They knock down a few barriers of unbelief between the abused and God. They make it easier for victims of injustice to believe in the God who cares about them personally.

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