Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Just and Fair, or is it?

I feel uneasy assuming toddlers understand justice because they have a sense that if someone else has something that they want, they, too should have it. I tend to draw a broad line between "fairness" and "justice" because in western culture, the line is so thin it borders on invisible.

To me, "Justice" embraces equal rights and responsibilities, protection from corruption, and an underlying respect for one another. It is about not showing partiality (Dt 16:19) and treating foreigners and dispossessed with consideration (Dt 24:17). It isn't about everybody having the same amount or equal shares. That is the concept kids invoke in their time-honored, immature assessment of life having gone counter to themselves: "that's not fair." 

And it may well NOT be fair. But fair and just are not the same. How on earth did they get so tangled together that we end up watering down the mighty notion of Justice to  equal opportunity, equal pay, equal education? And because we've focused on items which we believe to require attention, we blind ourselves to where the true injustice is: in our hearts. We think by a token redistribution of stuff that we have implemented Justice. 

Our hearts are far from it. 

Justice is a very big deal to God. But He doesn't implement it by giving all His children the same things, gifts, abilities, or brains. Justice isn't about stuff. I have a sneaking suspicion it is about a state of mind. When the Queen of Sheba was overwhelmed by Solomon's opulent possessions--greater than had been reported, she surmised that God gave it to Solomon because He loved Israel and made Solomon king to maintain justice and righteousness.

Justice and righteousness are a package deal in the Scripture. They come together as attributes in a person or in commands for behavior. And they describe God and His Kingdom. 

Sadly, it seems like we just don't get it. Out in the obviously oppressive tyrannies of  underdeveloped countries, it is easy to finger one injustice after another. You find it at all levels. Seems like here in the US we are trying to fix the problem of miscarried justice by making everything fair. Promoting a sense of entitlement. Education is a right. A comfortable home and safe vehicle, rights. Medical treatment, a right. The vote, a right.

Maybe it makes people feel good to argue or fight passionately for these things to be equally available to all. But they are not fighting for justice. Because justice has to start in the heart, and it isn't in there unless we ask God to put it there.

God got sick and tired of the rituals of Israel (they did animal sacrifices, grain offerings, and sang lovely music). He just told them: "Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream." (Am 5:23-24)

Off there in the developing countries, they are heartsick for lack of justice. They are resigned. They are victims. They have so little hope. We Christians need to bring the word of justice to them. And share their lives and infuse the hope of justice. 

Instead, I see organizations sending money to rectify a heart problem and then shrugging when it doesn't provide a fix. Being a messenger of Hope takes time, not money.


Time, yes, but, as you said, a heart change is crucial.

In the US, the history of African-Americans shows the hard heart of the masses.

At first, these Africans were treated like animals--taken, sold, used for uncompensated, hard labor.

Their emancipation began decades of their being treated not as peers, but as aliens. Most whites made no effort to integrate them into society.

Those who cared (there are always some) came up with the concept of affirmative action. African-Americans were given legal preference at times, in school and employment.

So, do we now live in a just society? Not as long as hearts are hard against others.

A black friend of mine, married to a white man, told me two stories. In the first, her young daughter was invited to a classmate's birthday party. This classmate whispered to her that she want my friend's daughter to arrive at the party with her daddy, not her mommy.
In the second, my friend made an enthusiastic acquaintance, who intimated to her that she had "always wanted a black friend." It makes me sad that some can't see my friend as a person.

The legislation of hearts is not possible. 

I would like to hear more of your experiences with both justice and injustice in Africa. I'm wondering, too, how do we compare? And what can we do?


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