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Justice Looks Like Scripture Tells Us

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Justice Looks Like…” is a special series in the Voice column. Readers will have the opportunity to view justice from many perspectives. The series is based on each writer’s understanding of the scriptures and their relationship to Jesus Christ. Writers present their own views independently of any institution, unless otherwise stated in their biography.

You are encouraged to listen to every writer without prejudice. Then strike up a conversation with others around you about what justice looks like to you.

Click here for more information on the series. Click here to read the entire series “Justice looks like …”.

The scriptures tell us what righteousness looks like.

Justice looks like:

• Flowing water (Amos 5).
• An inclined ear towards the orphan and the oppressed (Psalm 10).
• No harm or violence towards the stranger, the orphan or the widow (Jeremiah 22).
• Food for the hungry (Psalm 149).
• Stability of the earth (Proverbs 29).
• Do good, save the oppressed, defend the orphan and plead for the widow (Isaiah 1).
• Deliverance from the hand of the oppressor by anyone who has been robbed (Jeremiah 21).
• Joy for the righteous, but dismay for the wicked (Proverbs 29).
• What we must do (Micah 6).
• Zacchaeus repaying four times what he stole from others (Luke 19).
• Do “the least of them” as we would do to Christ himself (Matthew 25).
• To love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus, Mark, Matthew, Luke, Romans, Galatians, James).

These powerful images must be formative. They should shape not only our personal morals, but also our public engagement. How can we exercise a Christian citizenship that promotes and realizes this biblical vision of justice?

Justice versus injustice

Justice is like hospitality and welcoming the stranger. Injustice is like the separation of families, the rejection of asylum seekers, the refusal of refugees and the locking of children in cages. Injustice allows the forces of white Christian nationalism to influence politics.

Justice is like fairness. Injustice Looks Like Record Interest Rates For The Rich While The Financially Vulnerable And Desperate People Are Charged over 400% APR on payday loans and auto securities.

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Justice is like generosity. Injustice looks like 1 in 3 households with children unable to afford food, shelter or utilities at least once from 2014 to 2016.

Justice is like daily bread. Injustice looks like hunger rate for black and Latino families twice that of white families.

Justice is like equality. Injustice looks like the three richest Americans owning more wealth than the bottom half of all Americans. Injustice looks like the typical white family possessing nearly 10 times the wealth of a typical black family.

Justice looks like an opportunity. Injustice looks like predominantly white school districts receive $ 23 billion more in state and local funding than predominantly non-white schools serving the same number of students, and Black students attending schools are as segregated today as they were in the 1960s and 1970s.

Justice is like freedom. Injustice resembles mass incarceration where the The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world and or Black Americans are incarcerated at a rate more than five times that of whites. Injustice is like a bond system where the poor stay in prison before being convicted of a crime simply because they are poor.

Justice is like a lasting relationship with God’s creation and natural resources. Injustice looks like those least responsible for carbon dioxide emissions are the most affected by climate change.

Justice resembles a functioning democracy which affirms the equality and divine dignity of each voter. The injustice resembles the restriction of access to the ballot by reducing early voting, inappropriate purges of voters lists, closing of polling stations, voters lining up all day to vote and 6.1 million Americans barred from voting due to felony denial of the right to vote. Injustice looks like political constituencies so gerrymandered that they reduce the influence of communities and ensure the re-election of incumbents.

Justice is like a country where the likelihood of a successful family cannot be predicted by the color of its skin. Injustice looks like healthcare systems repeatedly failing our black and Latino neighbors, including baby and maternal mortality rates, died of diabetes and rate of uninsured.

Justice is like empathy. Injustice refuses to see from another’s point of view, to recognize that its experience is different from ours, or to believe its testimony.

See and seek justice

Justice seems to strive to live up to our American ideal that all are created equal. Justice is like those who are doing well themselves and working for a better future for struggling neighbors.

We cannot see justice when we are motivated by anger and fear. To see justice, we must lift our gaze above the partisanship and cynicism that limit our vision. We cannot view righteousness with a scarcity mentality, which refuses to embrace God’s abundance. To see righteousness, we must engage our prophetic imaginations that envision the kingdom of God here on earth as it is in heaven.

Justice cannot prevail when we perpetuate unjust systems because they protect our own power and privilege. Justice cannot be the goal of one political party or one “type” of Christian.

If we want to achieve freedom and justice for all, it will take all of us. Every American, and certainly every follower of Christ, should make a commitment to seek righteousness; this is what we are called to do. Justice is like the promise of equality finally fulfilled, instead of a dream too long delayed.

Stephen Reeves is Executive Director of Fellowship Southwest and Director of Advocacy for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. A native of Austin, he is the former Director of Public Policy for the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, is a member of the State Bar of Texas, and is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Tech School of Law. .

Click here to read the entire series “Justice looks like …”.