God’s Heart: Justice
Donnell Wyche — June 6, 2021
The prophet Amos thunders:
“Let justice roll on like a like a river, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” (Amos 5:24).
This call for justice from Amos isn’t random, it isn’t a religious call, it isn’t a call to virtue. Before Amos declares the heart of God, Amos spends four chapters dishing out judgment on the nations for their lack of care for the poor, their lack of concerns for oppressed, their failure to affirm human dignity and flourishing, their willingness to do what is vile, to sell their countrymen, their captives or prisoners into slavery. And Amos reverse the harshest judgement for the very people of God.
Amos, and the prophets are unformed in their call for justice. There’s urgency in their call for justice, it’s a call to relieve the suffering of the victims of oppression. We hear these echoes for justice from Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, and Micah.
Let’s consider the prophet Micah, responding to the lack faithfulness among the people of God. Micah doesn’t raise his voice against those evil-doers, out there, instead he gets a mirror and places it in front of the people of God, and he reminds them of their vocation:
6With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8He has shown all you people 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 6:6-8)
The Christian narrative tells the story of a good and just God who is concerned with his creation; it tells the story of God who has been working to put the world to rights, to deal with injustice and the problem of evil. The narrative tells of a God who has teamed with his creation in bringing about justice, reconciliation, and the restoration of all things. The narrative tells of a God who “cares very much about this present world and our present selves,” and it tells of a God “who has made us and the world for a purpose which will indeed involve justice,” it will indeed involve ‘things being put to rights, ourselves being put to rights,” it tells of a God who has devised a plan to rescue us and the world.
Abraham Heschel echoing Proverbs 14:31 & Proverbs 17:5 puts it this way,
“[Justice] is God’s part of human life, God’s stake in human history. Perhaps it is because the suffering of man is a blot upon God’s conscience… People act as they please, doing what is vile, abusing the weak, not realizing that they are fighting God, affronting the divine, or that the oppression of [people] is a humiliation of God.”
God is a co-victim in every act of injustice that we inflict on each other. God, who has a stake in humanity, is beside himself, and his heart is filled with pain! God’s personal, involved, passionate concern is for justice!
Reinhold Niebuhr on the biblical view of justice writes,
“Justice was not equal justice but a bias in favor of the poor. Justice always leaned toward mercy for the widows and orphans.”
Back to Micah we go:
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
What does it mean for us to do justice? I think we want to try to see if we can connect our heart with God’s heart? Have we put ourselves in place of openness that allows God’s spirit to fill us? Can we unite our spirit to God’s spirit and feel the pain and suffering that injustice causes God? Can we feel what God feels? There’s a temptation here to want to hate the things that God hates, we even have songs that we sing about this, but I think the road less traveled is the one that allows us to feel the pain that God feels. The weeping that God does for the those who are ignored, oppressed, exploited, and marginalized.
He’s calling us to respond in kind. To do justice means to take up the cause of the weak, the oppressed, the ignored, and the exploited, to champion their voice and concerns.
Concentric circles of responsibility/concern.
First, immediate: doing justice in family, workplace, business dealings.
Second, proximate: doing justice to our neighbor at hand as defined by Good Samaritan parable.
Third, civic: doing justice as we are given wisdom in the broader community, whether that’s locally, nationally, globally.
Just as no one expects to receive a reward for the habit of breathing. Justice is as much a necessity as breathing is and a constant occupation. We aren’t call to do justice, just once, and then we check it off our list and move onto other things, we act justly, we love mercy, we walk humbly with our God, that’s what is required of us, that’s what expected of us, that’s our job, that’s our call, that’s our vocation.