Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. Isaiah 1:17
Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. Isaiah 10:1-2
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! Isaiah 30:18
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. Matthew 23:23
But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! Amos 5:24
Justice is a big deal with God. The word is used 130 times in the Bible, 115 times in the Old Testament — 30 times in Isaiah alone. (And that is just the English word, “justice.” There are many other times justice and injustice are spoken of using other words or concepts that mean basically the same thing.) Justice is high on God’s list of values; right up there with righteousness, mercy, faithfulness and love. It is impossible to ignore in the scriptures.
Yet, for the longest time, white evangelical Christians have ignored it in the scriptures and in the world, going all the way back to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. There were some white mainline Christians marching with Martin Luther King, but not many. Even the Jesus Movement largely missed it, sticking mainly to the gospel message. Social justice was mostly associated with liberal churches, and it was thought that you preached a social gospel to the detriment and diminishment of the gospel of salvation. We were more concerned about people’s souls than their freedom, equality and worth as made in the image of God. Those who embraced all of these were few and far between. Even Martin Luther King was thought of as too liberal in his theology and there were moral questions over his lifestyle. So all of his many soul-stirring, prophetic sermons based on the prophecies of Isaiah and the minor prophets and the words of David and Jesus went largely unnoticed in the evangelical community. To our shame, we caught the gospel train, but missed the freedom train.
We mustn’t miss this train again.
Biblical justice is all about fairness, impartiality, equity, and exacting punishment on those who do wrong. Justice is God’s way of lifting up those who are oppressed — those society tramples and leaves behind. It is the best of what people are marching for in our streets today, and we ignore an opportunity to connect with our neighbors over something that is close to the heart of God if we ignore this. People who need Jesus need to know how important justice is to Jesus as well.
This is what the gospel of welcome — grace turned outward — is all about; linking arms with those who see everyone as important in God’s kingdom, from the least to the greatest. This is a prophetic time for those who know Jesus to come alongside those who care about what God cares about whether they know Jesus or not.