Earlier this week I wrote about the roadblocks to justice. Today I’m writing about justice itself.
In his book, Forgotten Among the Lilies, Ronald Rolheiser titles his 10th chapter, ‘The Bosom of God’s Heart is not a Ghetto’. The word ‘ghetto’ has been used to define historic Jewish settlements, urban sections divided by race, economics, and ethnic origins. Looking at places like Sudan and the Middle East, the word ghetto might easily be defined. Still, I think this word can yet be translated closer to home; to communities where there are homeless, prejudices, economic differences and power struggles.
We often refer to justice as a way of being or acting. And while this is true, I tend to think justice is more about relationships, about how we see and understand our fellow brothers and sisters. Reflecting on the fact that we are all created by one God, would it not follow that we are all brothers and sisters, regardless of our stories, our beliefs, our ethnic or cultural backgrounds, and/or anything else that might make us seem different or separate.
In his writing, Testament of Hope, Martin Luther King says, “What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love."
Each of us has a story, and most of us at one time in our lives have felt hurt or betrayed, either personally or communally. With the variety of widespread injustices in the world, it’s a natural thing to judge a perpetrator and empathize with a recipient. However, when injustice is derived by a previous injustice, regardless of the story, no one wins.
My experience has been, when an injustice has taken place which seems beyond my ability to forgive, I then need to put the one(s) who wounded in God’s hands. Otherwise my own lens for justice becomes foggy.
Isaiah 1 speaks passionately about human injustice and God’s response. This call for justice is repeated throughout scriptures, in places such as Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and later on as he washes his disciples’ feet. The necessity of being just, of acting with compassion and mercy towards one another, personally and communally, is God’s command and wish for us as a community. I have found that to be just or to seek justice cannot always be guided by our feelings or preconceived thoughts. Though, I’m pretty sure favorable emotions can come from seeking or receiving justice.
Perhaps practicing justice starts with the person next to us…no judgment, no avoidance, no gossip.
Just as we ask God for grace and mercy, we are in turn being asked to offer the same to one another. What would peace at home and around the world be like? What would it be like if very adult and child had enough food and shelter? And what would it be like if everyone was treated with dignity and compassion? Thoughts to reflect on.