At times, justice becomes a bit of a catchphrase, sadly even a cliché. Yet it’s one of the most important concepts we can understand and live out. I have seen injustice with my own eyes, and each day the news tells each of us of acts of injustice. But rather than feel defeat, let’s stand up, take action, and do something about it. Here are four reasons why justice should be the cry of today’s Christian.
Jesus experienced injustice, so we would not experience judgment
In the Garden of Gethsemane, we see Jesus taking on our pain and anguish—and on the cross, we see him taking on our sin. Think about these four things Jesus says and prays in the Garden:
“Sit here while I go over there and pray.”
“My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with me.”
“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
“My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will must be done.” (Matthew 26:36–46 LEB).
It is here that we see the man Jesus, God’s own servant Son. It is here that we find one who walks alongside the downtrodden, the hurting, the poor, the outsider, the refugee, the sinner — all the way to the cross. Here we find the one who walks alongside all of us, all the way to the cross. Here we see God enfolding, through Jesus, all God’s people into God’s kingdom. Jesus does God’s will, so that true, deep and everlasting life can be made available to all.
In the garden, Jesus asks if the cup can be removed from him. But, more importantly, he maintains that not his own will be done, but God the Father’s will be done.
Jesus realises the burden he is about to carry. Recorded more than 500 years before Jesus lived and died and rose again, the burden Jesus carried was prophesied by Isaiah as:
“By a restraint of justice, [the servant] was taken away and with his generation.
Who could have mused that [the servant] would be cut off from the land of the living? Marked for the transgression of my people.
And [Yahweh] set his grave with the wicked, and [the servant] was with the rich in his death, although [the servant] had done no wrong, and there was no deceit in his mouth
Yet Yahweh was pleased to crush [the servant]; he afflicted him [with sickness]. If [Zion] places [the servant’s] life a guilt offering, [the servant] will see offspring, [the servant] will prolong days. And the will of Yahweh is in [the servant’s] hand, it will succeed. Out of trouble of his life [the servant] will see; [the servant] will be satisfied by his knowledge.
[Yahweh says,] ‘My righteous servant will bring justice to many and he will bear their iniquities.’ ” (Isaiah 53:8–11, my translation).
As painful as it is, it pleased Yahweh that Jesus should go to the cross. For it is through the events of the cross and resurrection that God found not just ultimate obedience, but also the only way to bridge humanity with himself. The judgment of God for our wrongdoings was satisfied. Once again, right relationship with God was possible.
It is in Jesus that we find the refugee on the cross. Here we find the guilt offering for all of our wrongs. Here we find one who carries our sin, bears our iniquities, and intercedes for transgressors. Here we find a restraint of justice, as it brings justice to those who do not deserve it.
But what will we do with this justice, with this freedom?
Injustice is a threat to justice everywhere
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” said Martin Luther King, Jr., in his writings from Birmingham Jail. And it is injustice that we see today — all over our planet.
Near the end of his life, Luther King, Jr. was working to bring equality by creating jobs. And yet, so much of the world still lacks jobs, because we haven’t completed the task. This is injustice.
We look around the world and we also see those who are oppressed — who lack spiritual and religious freedom, who lack knowledge of Jesus. This too is an injustice.
We must stand up, lift up, and rise up — to fight these injustices, boldly proclaiming that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
A lack of access to jobs and the basics of life is injustice
We can read Jesus’ call to care for the “least of these” in Matthew 25:37–40 as a direct preface and parallel to what he will do on the cross. Jesus went to the cross to make us — who do not deserve it — right before God. And just before doing so, he calls us to live the message of Matthew 25:37-40. He also noting for his followers that whether or not we do live by His words, will be a primary question when he returns to earth.
So when we look around our world, and see a lack of access to basic healthcare, clean water, and jobs — like I have seen in the impoverished region of Bihar, India — we know that we must take action.
Jesus cries out for this. This is the Christian cry. And it is my cry, as I am personally broken for the hurting that I know in Bihar — for those who have placed their hands in my hands and cried out to God with me for justice.
A lack of access to the gospel is injustice
We can also read the final words of Matthew’s Gospel, spoken by Jesus, as a commission based on his ministry in life, on the cross, and in his resurrection. And it’s a commission of action. Jesus says:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18–20 LEB).
Yet, there are still millions of people who have not heard Jesus’ name — again, this is the case in Bihar, India. In Bihar, there are 101 million people who have never heard the name of Jesus. This, again, is an injustice. All people deserve the chance to have access to the gospel.
The question becomes for each of us: What will we do about it? Why are we content with the knowledge of God, but not the actions of God? When will justice become part of the gospel? Because, in actuality, can we truly testify that we’re living it out.
Do not walk away with guilt, though. Walk away inspired to take action. Let’s continue the work of Jesus, the apostles, the early church fathers, and people like Martin Luther King, Jr. Let’s mark this season of life as the one when everything changed, and we began to renew our world again with Christ, by his power and grace.
John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can also transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop.
Find out more about the Social Justice and the Uniting Church here