I have just returned from Sunny California and I am trying to re-acclimatise myself to U.K. time and weather. I went to Los Angeles to attend the Justice Conference and returned fired-up and ready to go. I need to watch some of the videos again and gather my thoughts, but here are some of my initial thoughts.
Jesus and Justice
Jesus came to this earth, 2000 years ago, to change the world by initiating the Kingdom of God on earth. This involved justice for the oppressed; and it is our privilege to be His hands and feet to those who are badly treated by mankind as a whole. Jesus said:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”. (NIV Luke 4 18-19)
Now we can try to spiritualise these verses and try to apply them only to spiritual oppression, to spiritual blindness or to spiritual poverty. But God is interested in the whole person; spirit, mind, emotions and body. He cares about the state of our health and our economic prosperity as well as our spiritual state.
- The good news for the poor is that true followers of Jesus will bring about justice for the poor and stop them being exploited by the rich and powerful.
- There are 2.5 million people (mostly people of colour) incarcerated in United States prisons, many of them for petty crimes, and some imprisoned without proper evidence against them. These prisoners are crying out for freedom. Some need to be kept for the safety of the majority, but really? One percent of the population?
- To the blind, the lame, the brain-damaged and the millions of children dying from preventable diseases, Jesus promises recovery, restoration to what He wants for His sons and daughters. Just think of what could have been achieved by now if the trillions of dollars of military spending were spent on reducing mankind’s physical ills.
- Jesus condemned the pharisees for neglecting justice and mercy (Matt 23:23). Poverty is mostly due to people being exploited and oppressed. Seeking justice is “setting the oppressed free“.
- Jesus came to “proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”. To usher in a new era of justice, of “His will being done on earth, as it is in heaven”.
Justice is at the heart of the Gospel
Justice is at the very heart of the gospel, God’s good news for mankind. Justice is not just an optional extra. Justice is not just something “nice” people do. The gospel would not be good news at all if we were to take justice out of it.
The trouble is that we (Christians) have been obsessed with:
- We get people to sign a form, or give mental assent to a set of beliefs to guarantee a place in ‘heaven’.
- We have produced a theology which says that we will escape from this earth, and therefore who should care about an earth ‘which will be destroyed’ anyway?
- By condemning all ‘others’ to Hell, it is not surprising that we have cared little about their physical health, their hopes and dreams, and their exploitation and poverty.
But things are changing (phew!). At the Justice Conference, I was privileged to meet with 2,000 other people who were passionate about the restoration of justice to its rightful place in the Church’s agenda. Speaker after speaker spoke about the need for justice. These are some of the things which stood out for me.
- Truth is about what is. Justice is about what ought to be.
- Justice and righteousness are about a right standing with God, our fellow-man and creation.
- Justice is at the heart of the Gospel.
How does this affect my life?
I am already committed to fighting for justice on behalf of other people – hence my blog. But at the conference I was challenged to think about how justice is worked out from day-to-day in my own life. I am still trying to work out the implications and hope to publish my conclusions in another article. But I am asking myself questions:
- About the things I eat. Are the people who grow my food paid enough to feed their families?
- About the things I wear, and use. Are the workers who manufactured these things treated right, or are they exploited?
- Does any item I consume, (studies suggest that most do) rely on slave or bonded labour?
- Do I buy things from companies who avoid paying taxes, or do not check that their product is ethically produced?
- If I decide to boycott any product, will it only exasperate conditions for the workers?
- How much am I ready to tip restaurant staff, cleaners etc., working at (or below) the minimum wage?
- What other ways can I ensure that my life does not, directly or indirectly, exploit other people?