In a memorable scene from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (1965), Charlie Brown helps his little sister, Sally, prepare her wish list for Santa Claus. Her wish list turns out to be rather selfish and extravagant. When Charlie Brown asks her about it, she gets defensive, shouting “All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share!” Sally demands justice, and she wants it her way!
Today all kinds of people call for justice, demonstrate for justice, or sometimes even riot for justice. But what kind of justice do they want, and why is their idea of justice any better than some other person’s idea of justice? In a world that embraces shape-shifting standards built on arbitrary versions of truth, how do we define justice?
We need to step back from the din and realize that what people describe as justice often involves self-serving expediency. We can understand this behavior when we realize that everyone is selfish. The Bible calls this sin. It is part of humanity’s spiritual DNA, and it almost always means putting ourself first. It also involves being blind to our selfishness. We can look for answers and we can look for justice, but we won’t find either by looking within. Instead, if we want to understand justice, we need to look to God.
God calls for justice throughout the Bible, and He calls for justice today. Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” But what does God mean by justice? The best way I have heard it described is that justice means setting things right. But who gets to define what is right?
Fortunately, God provides resources to help us understand His view of what is right. First, we look at God’s designs for life. God designed us as male and female. He blesses many of us with marriage. He sets out roles for individuals, families, and communities. Next, we study the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament (Exodus 20:1-17) and the Two Great Commandments in the New Testament (Matthew 22:37-40). Pondering these things helps us begin to understand God’s sense of justice. However, knowing these things is not enough since we can’t bootstrap ourself into righteousness. Fortunately, God provides the answer to our predicament: He sent His Son to die for us, redeeming us and freeing us from slavery to self and sin. As Jesus says in John 8:34-36, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
One more thought: selfish and expedient calls for justice do not negate God’s call for justice. Our world, and our neighbors, sorely need justice in accord with God’s view of setting things right. So, what do we do? Recalling the passage from Micah, let’s not underestimate how God might use each of us as His agents among our neighbors and in our communities. We may not see a difference right away, but God will use us, nevertheless.