"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8
On the topic of "Social Justice", we have discussed some issues of concern. We have also seen the impacts it has on your life both present and past. Now I want to offer some suggestion of what you can do.
WHAT IS IT WE SHOULD DO?
When I (TIM KELLER) was professor at a theological seminary in the mid-eighties, one of my students was a young man named Mark Gornik. One day we wesre standing at the copier and he told me that he was about to move into Sandtown, one of the poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods in Baltimore. I remember being quite surprised. When I asked him why, he said simply, “To do justice.”
It had been decades since any white people had moved into Sandtown. For the first couple of years there, it was touch and go. Mark told a reporter, “The police thought I was a drug dealer, and the drug dealers thought I was a police officer. So, for a while there, I didn’t know who was going to shoot me first.” Yet over the years Mark, along with leaders in the community, established a church and a comprehensive set of ministries that have slowly transformed the neighborhood.
Although Mark was living a comfortable, safe lives, he became concerned about the most vulnerable, poor and marginalized members of our society, and made long-term personal sacrifices in order to serve their interests, needs and cause.
That is, according to the Bible, what it means to “do justice.”
The Hebrew word for “justice,” mishpat, occurs in its various forms more than 200 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. Its most basic meaning is to treat people equitably. It means acquitting or punishing every person on the merits of the case, regardless of race or social status. Anyone who does the same wrong should be given the same penalty. Mishpat, then, is giving people what they are due, whether punishment or protection or care. Over and over again, mishpat describes taking up the care and cause of widows, orphans, immigrants and the poor—those who have been called “the quartet of the vulnerable.” That is what it means to “do justice.” CARE FOR THE WEAK.
Why should we be concerned about the vulnerable ones? It is because God is concerned about them. It is striking to see how often God is introduced as the defender of these vulnerable groups.
Justice is Right Relationships
We must have a strong concern for the poor, but there is more to the biblical idea of justice than that. We get more insight when we consider a second Hebrew word that can be translated as “being just,” though it usually translated as “being righteous.” The word is tzadeqah, and it refers to a life of right relationships.
When most modern people see the word “righteousness” in the Bible, they tend to think of it in terms of private morality, such as sexual chastity or diligence in prayer and Bible study. But in the Bible, tzadeqah refers to day-to-day living in which a person conducts all relationships in family and society with fairness, generosity and quity. It is not surprising, then, to discover that tzadeqah and mishpat are brought together scores of times in the Bible.
Therefore, though tzadeqah is primarily about being in a right relationship with God, the righteous life that results is profoundly social. LET”S BUILD HEALTHY MARRIAGES AND FAMILIES
Justice includes Generosity
Primary justice, or tzadeqah, may mean taking the time personally to meet the needs of the handicapped, the elderly or the hungry in our neighborhoods. Or it could mean the establishment of new nonprofits to serve the interests of these classes of persons. It could also mean a group of families from the more prosperous side of town adopting the public school in a poor community and making generous donations of money and pro bono work in order to improve the quality of education there.
When these two words, tzadeqah and mishpat, are tied together, as they are over three dozen times, the English expression that best conveys the meaning is “social justice.” LET’S BE GENEROUS!
Doing Justice Plays A Big Part In the Dispensing of Final Justice (See MT. 25:31-46)