Two Words From a Challenging Year
As I look back on 2020, two words leap to mind: liberty and justice. These two words have been undeniably highlighted as we’ve grappled with the harsh realities of the coronavirus pandemic, financial inequity and racial discord.
I find it interesting that both words are found in the American Pledge of Allegiance ("... with liberty and justice for all"). Even more remarkable and noteworthy is that God’s character exhibits both traits. God offers liberty and justice to all His creation.
Justice is a universal longing in the human heart. When we encounter injustice against ourselves or others, our hearts naturally rise up and say, “That is not right. Something needs to be done about that!” The God-given instinct for justice runs deep and calls for a response, not just in words but in actions.
Even with this God-given desire for justice, it’s not always easy to make things right. The teacher may not be able to know who hit whom first out on the playground. They may know there was cheating on a test but not be sure who cheated or even how to handle it. Parents may not be sure which child started the argument and subsequent retaliation. Arbitrators may not be able to get two companies to agree to a settlement out of court. Diplomats may fail at getting their respective countries to work things out instead of going to war.
To be honest, at times even our best efforts may cause more harm than good. However, just because it is difficult does not mean we shouldn’t try. Our Creator God calls us to reflect His image in the world and to be prayerfully active in making things right wherever possible.
As we seek to uphold justice, it is important to understand this battle is much bigger than we think. The apostle Paul says, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). There are other powers working against justice, with evil intent.
The Bible story also tells us about an incredibly good God, who created a very good world. However, this good world was corrupted by Satan, supported by spiritual hosts of wickedness. Yet a remarkable truth remains. Our flawed world has never been abandoned by our good God. God pledged to make things right through His Son.
The apostle John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1,14). God's Son was incarnated in human flesh and lived here on earth. And yet, His own creation did not recognize Him as the Son of God or understand His mission.
As we keep reading, we come to the story of the crucifixion. The Son of God was not treated well all throughout the gospel story, but here, especially, we fully recognize our world full of injustice. Jesus' world was one where bullies ran over innocent people, where Roman emperors and governors did whatever it took to stay in power. In the middle of the injustice we see Satan, stirring up the people to crucify the Son of Glory.
The powers of darkness did their worst to Jesus. Satan thought he might have won. Then on the third day, according to Scripture, Christ rose from the grave victorious over Satan! The resurrection of Jesus provides our flawed world with hope that injustice is going to be put right in the end.
Scripture reminds us that God has been working out His plan since before the creation of the world. God's incredible plan is described in John 3:16–17: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
As a boy I used to watch the reruns of the detective shows Hawaii Five-0 and Columbo. Each week the heroes sought justice for the victims. Though unclear at first, the unjust person was discovered, taken to jail, put on trial and convicted. It felt good to see justice done — and all in one hour. Real life isn’t nearly as tidy as we’d like. Justice isn’t served as quickly as those old TV shows portrayed.
While our world is full of injustice and oppression, I do believe one thing with all my heart: Jesus did not leave us alone in this brokenness. He sent us the Holy Spirit to renew us, to empower us and to share the hope of justice now and to come. God promises humanity justice in the end, at the judgment and re-creation of the world. Our ultimate hope is in the world made new. All things will be restored to the way it should have been — even better.
Until then, dear heart, stay focused on Jesus! We cannot fight injustice and oppression on our own. Be open to the Holy Spirit’s leading to be part of the answer to make things right. Let God guide us to where our efforts will be most productive in restoring justice and liberty to a dying world.