A few weeks ago, people of various races, genders and faiths began America’s Journey for Justice in Selma Alabama, marching across the southern states. The march is being led by the NAACP to highlight and to continue to address racial justice issues and is scheduled to end in Washington, D. C. in mid-September. When the justice marchers reach the nation’s capital, we who truly believe in ‘liberty and justice for all’, will fervently declare that our votes, our jobs, our schools and our lives matter!
…I have no doubt that change will come and justice will be, once and for all, also on the side of the oppressed, the marginalized and the disenfranchised. After all, I’ve heard that God is the God of the oppressed. And God wins, right?!…
But change has a tendency to come slowly. Someone once said, “The wheels of justice grind slowly”. The problem with these slow grinding wheels is that people are dying AND being killed very quickly. And that death is not just physical. The death is economic, financial, social, emotional, psychological, mental, and every other way that we can describe our existence in this world.
We can’t (or I can’t) turn on the T.V., log onto the internet or glance at a smartphone or tablet without seeing the name of yet another person, primarily African American and primarily male, whose life has been cut short. Every time we turn around we here of “trickery”, both legal and illegal tactics, at election polls to suppress voting rights, primarily the rights of people who are poor and disenfranchised. We are constantly hearing of poor people being forced out of their neighborhoods because of gentrification, with no place to go to make a decent home or an honest living. We are constantly hearing of failing inner city school systems. It looks pretty bleak!
But even in light of and in spite of what I see, I have hope. I have hope because I’m a woman of faith, I believe God wins and I believe that everyone on God’s side wins! I believe justice will come! But it won’t come fast. And it won’t come easy. And when that ‘delayed justice’ happens, what are we supposed to do? What happens when our cry for justice is lifted up to the governing powers and they stall like a deer caught in headlights? What are the consequences when we, the people, cry out and demand justice but justice is not given?
The answers, I believe, can be found in many places, two of which are the Bible and the Constitution of the United States of America. There are so many passages in the Bible that speak of justice and the responsibility of those who are genuinely on God’s side. The passages are too numerous to list but here are a few that address our responsibility for justice:
“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.” (Proverbs 31:8-9); “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.” (Psalm 82:3); “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” (Isaiah 1:17); “… let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24); “… what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8); and last but not least, “Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 16:20)
This last verse, “justice, and only justice, you shall follow” leads me to the United States Constitution, which says:
“…whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it [the government], and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness… when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them [the people] under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” (http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html)
In other words, when governing bodies and systems become unjust, the citizens, who, in good faith, put these governing bodies and systems into place, are empowered and mandated by the Constitution to make a change. AND when people are being oppressed by unjust governing bodies and systems, the people of God are empowered and mandated by the Bible to change unjust systems.
There it is! In black and white! In sacred and secular text! We, the people, have the right and the obligation to right wrongs, to bring justice to unjust systems on behalf of those who are pushed out to the edges of society. In spite of this dual dose of empowerment from sacred and secular text, our society has embraced a sense of complacency. I know that some people will quote the verse, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” I agree! Vengeance belongs to God. But God has commissioned us to seek justice. Justice and Vengeance are not the same thing!
When did we, the people of God (that is, those who claim to authentically follow God, who is holy, righteous and just) become so complacent in the pursuit of justice? When did we settle into the notion that we are only responsible for our personal salvation? Contrary to what we believe or what we want to believe, our relationship with God doesn’t stop with us. Even Jesus said to Peter, “When you are converted, strengthen the brothers,” (of course, this applies to sisters too.) (Luke 22:32).
And why are we, the people of God, so quiet when it comes to standing up for the rights of the oppressed? Where did we get the notion that the pursuit of justice is a quiet pursuit? Our dainty, white gloves pursuit of justice makes me think of a Pine-sol commercial. One lady, writhing on the floor in a “dirt snuggler” says she’s gently cleaning and polishing the floor. Another lady asks, “And why would you want to treat dirt gently?” This is my question with regard to our gentle pursuit of justice. Why would we want to treat unjust systems gently?
Jesus, himself, was quite the activist and was known to turn over a table or two in the pursuit of justice and righteousness. (Matthew 21:12) What’s that you say? You say you love God? You say Jesus is your savior, your leader, your example? You say you believe in justice? Well, take a page from Jesus. Justice requires action. Faith without works is dead. (James 2:17)
As the people of God, we have no excuse NOT to seek justice. It is our obligation! As the people of God were are to follow justice ONLY! It is not enough for us to quietly assemble in our houses of worship and teaching, send up prayers and praise, and then return home to our own little corner, to our own little chair. We have been ordained, mandated and empowered to seek justice for the oppressed. To use a boxing metaphor. We’ve been in our corners too long, people of God! It’s time to come out swinging!
English Standard Version Bible
The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America
To become a justice marcher or to find out other ways that you can support America’s Journey for Justice, simply click this link. (http://www.naacp.org//ajfj)
Follow America’s Journey for Justice on Facebook (#JusticeSummer)
No written portion of any article on this site may be shared without giving credit to the author.
Copyright © 2015 by Kanisha L. Adkins.