Suicide bombings in Iraq. Mass kidnappings in Nigeria. Routine murder by police in the USA of black men with impunity. Corruption in every nation and at every levelled government. As a Christian I struggle with this picture of the world I live in. I see the images coming out of the USA and the U.K., I watch as the #blacklivesmatter movement face off against the police and with decades of repressed fear, pain, anger and sorrow chant with their entire being, "No justice, no peace".
"No justice, no peace. No justice, no peace. No justice, no peace. "
And then I open my bible and I read, and I remember that chant, "No justice, no peace", and it dawns on me, they are right, but not in the conditional way in which they are warning police and politicians that they have had enough, but in a factual way for God is justice, and God is peace; know Justice, know Peace.
No God, no peace; No peace, no God. It's a pretty simple equation that stands scrutiny not because it is expressed in that form in any verse that can be quoted but rather that it is woven into the fabric of the bible and implicit everywhere. In The Books of Law found in the Torah, justice is a governing principle and is to be given to all equally, whether they are rich or poor (Lev 19:15), foreign or domestic (Deu 24:17). In fact God goes as far as to curse any who deny justice to foreigners, orphans or widows (Deu 27:19).
Justice is not only however a theme of the bible, it is also a fundamental characteristic of God and governs how he interacts with his creation. The Psalmist writes:
"But the Lord reigns forever, executing judgement from his throne. He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness. The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in the time of trouble." (Psalms 9:7-9)
Proverbs 16:12 is even more telling about rulership "A king detests wrong doing, for his rule is built on justice." As Christians we proclaim Jesus Christ to be the King of Kings who will establish his kingdom that will last forever, well we need to recognise that one of the factors that underpins that kingdom, that makes him worthy of rulership, is justice.
For a moment, I want you to imagine heaven. Think of all the wonderful ways it's described in the bible, the ways it's been described in church or by your friends. Think of all the wonders you imagine it contains, think of living with people from every tongue and every nation for eternity, think of how wonderful that must be. And now take the justice out of your picture? Not quite so idyllic is it? Not quite so peaceful either.
No justice, no peace.
So how then can we claim to love Christ and desire to go to heaven, but be so indifferent about justice? How can it be possible to yearn for peace, but be unconcerned about injustice? How can we comfortably call ourselves Christians when we ignore the pain and suffering that injustice causes? Matthew 25:31-46 provides an overview of some of the things Christ is concerned with, and although being murdered wasn't on the list and I think it's safe to say if he is concerned about people going hungry, he is concerned about people being killed over theological differences or the colour of their skin. I think it's also safe to say that if we are not committed to stamping out injustice and coming alongside people in their pain we are refusing to help the least of His brothers and sisters; we are refusing to help Him.
"I hate all your show and pretense- the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I won't accept your burnt offerings or your grain offerings. I won't even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living." (Amos 5:21-24)
God doesn't care that you go to the most boring church imaginable, he isn't interested in your tithe and offerings, and that sweet sounding mass choir you have going on... He isn't even listening to it! He is waiting for that mighty flood of justice from us; he is waiting for us to stand up and get involved. He is waiting for Christians to stand up and lead the world to the end of their search for peace and justice; he is waiting for us to lead the world to him.
"No justice, No peace. KNOW justice KNOW peace".