The Case for Justice

By James Hammack
The Alabama Baptist

The country is in yet another crisis surrounding the death of another black individual by the hands of law enforcement officers. Riots and protests are growing in frequency and number. Devastation has become a nightly reality for many people. Too many Christians seem to get bogged down in the weeds of debate and neglect to weep with those who weep. Or worse, they stay silent all together. It all grieves my soul.

Was George Floyd’s death racially motivated injustice? Perhaps. If it isn’t, I’ve seen plenty of examples firsthand to know that racism is alive and well in America. Injustice is also alive and well.

But there is a greater reality found within Scripture that elevates our understanding and response to injustice and death. George Floyd is an image bearer. He bears the image of God. What does this mean for us? The way we carry out justice, the way we hold accountable those whose daily responsibility is to uphold the law, the way we support law and the proper enforcement of the law, and the way we grieve injustice ought to look different than the world if we are found in Christ.

Justice Matters

I don’t really think anyone really disagrees or debates this on a surface level. But when we discuss the specifics of how this looks, sometimes teeth are bared and the claws come out. This ought not be. Jesus cared about justice when He cared for those left behind in society. He cared for the common decency of mankind. He lived according to the law, and He instructed us to abide by the law as well. We can have civil discourse about the particulars that fall within the realm of conscience issues. In fact, we should do just that. But vilifying other brothers and sisters who speak the same truths of the gospel over matters of application and conscience that Scripture doesn’t explicitly lay out is not the way of the Master.

The Method of Justice Matters

When a miscarriage of justice is made known, it ought to be addressed. But the social media frenzy that often ensues is more akin to mob justice than it is a biblical model of justice. It was mob justice that consigned Jesus to the cross and released Barabbas. But the masses can accomplish lasting change with a proper view of the method of justice. For justice to happen, law is key.

America has laws that set forth what justice looks like. And where those laws fail true justice, change is warranted. Change that comes from the decrying of the injustice by God’s people. But this isn’t motivated by a disdain or hate for unjust. It’s motivated by a love for those oppressed or bearing the injustice.

Love for others is not only our calling but should be the defining characteristic of God’s people. It’s a love that doesn’t result in riots, violence, silence or indifference. It’s a love that involves calculated, well-articulated call for change. And sometimes change is long in coming. We must not give up on working for change, but we cannot sin in our anger and become an additional problem. This love though, it requires the humility to listen, even if you think a problem doesn’t exist. It’s a love marked by self-sacrifice.

In the first Jerusalem council of Acts 15, a heated debate ensued about how the law did or didn’t apply to Gentile converts. There was debate, careful debate within the church. A consensus was reached that cared for both the Gentiles and the unconverted Jews as well as a faithfulness to the gospel.

Why mention that? Why look at an in-house church decision for how we should approach the world? Because we are a people of the Word. So the Word needs to be formative and prescriptive in our approach to the world, including how we handle injustice. We are called to love the oppressed and care for the downtrodden, even at our own expense. Christ set this example by laying down His rights for the sake of justice. A cosmic justice that made forgiveness for the unjust possible.

If our aim isn’t to bring about the proper handling of justice and to lead the unjust to repentance, then we fail in following Jesus as He has led us. And when the lost world around us is in chaotic uproar because of real hurt and pain, they won’t look like Jesus, but we should.

Perfect Justice is the Lord’s

Police brutality against the George Floyds, peaceful protestors and even journalists as well as the riots and destruction are too common these days. These issues can seem complex and often stem from many things.

But ultimately, they are a result of lostness. A heart change is needed for justice to ever be complete. The sin of the many have been laid on the shoulders of the one who is Jesus the Christ. And all those who don’t believe? They will face justice in one manner without fail. When they stand before God, they will be judged and found short. The world cannot stand apart from Christ. And our hope for justice as the church is not in this world. Yes, we should seek it out now, but knowing we won’t always find it. But a judgment day is coming where all injustice will be dealt with perfectly.

And that is where we find our hope. Until then, we speak clearly in love and for the sake of the oppressed and mistreated. Until then, we hold to the sure hope that can only be found in Jesus. Until then, we ought to be a church so filled with an indiscriminate love that the world will have to find something other than hate to accuse us with.