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Social Justice?

Written by Amanda Hart

Justice. What’s it all about? Attending a rally? A conference? Buying a t-shirt? These days it seems like the cool thing to do. But what about when it gets real and we’re called to take a stand, to speak out or act alongside those who can’t speak or act for themselves? What happens when Jesus’ call to seek justice interrupts our life?

Jesus lived his life as a social justice champion. Jesus helped the oppressed and condemned the oppressor. He spoke out against inequality and he welcomed those who were alienated and marginalised. He drew crowds of people who wanted to be part of his mission, but when the sandals hit the road and he stood against a corrupt government, which wanted to put him to death - he was abandoned.

General Andre QuoteSadly, this still happens in today’s society. Those who are oppressed still cry out. But when we’re called out of our comfort zone and are needed to speak out against the dominant, the privileged and the norms of the day, can we be brave and take a stand with Jesus? Or have we abandoned Jesus as well? What about when we’re labelled as ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ or even ‘secular’? Do we turn away in fear? Let’s not forget that Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God was not well received by many of the religious leaders of the time either.

There seems to be some apprehension over this ‘justice thing’ and why we do it. Do we do it to align ourselves with a particular political party’s agenda? Do we participate in social justice because it’s the relevant thing to do? Quite simply put, no we don’t.

Even a brief flick through the gospels provides examples of Jesus’ life of justice. He wasn’t just a passive observer or cheerleader - he actively sought positive change. Think about the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17 – verse 11 says “Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.” It doesn’t seem strange to us when we read this, until we realise that the border between Samaria and Galilee wasn’t on the way to Jerusalem. Jesus actively sought out justice. He went out of his way to go where injustice was. Justice was at the heart of Jesus’ mission and that is exactly why justice should be at the heart of ours. Jesus is our motivation for justice.

But why was justice at the heart of Jesus mission? Because justice is what God requires of us, all of us. All through the Old Testament we read of God’s desire for justice. His frustration over receiving empty sacrifices is echoed time and time again by the 8th Century prophets. Micah 6:8 is possibly one of the most quoted justice verses in the Old Testament, but consider also Amos 5:21-24, “I hate, I despise your religious festivals… But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” Or Isaiah 58,

“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?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry

    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—

when you see the naked, to clothe them,

    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”

This is what God requires, for us to do justice, not argue about why we do it. Jesus is our motivation for seeking justice. The question we need to ask ourselves is not “How can I seek justice?” but rather, “How can I not?”