Pursuing Justice as an Act of Worship | Sojourners

Pursuing Justice as an Act of Worship

Photo by Bogdan Yukhymchuk on Unsplash

Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times! (Psalm 106:3),” the psalmist declared. And yet we live in a society plagued by corruption, oppression, and injustice. For the church, pursuing justice is form of worship, an act of holy obedience. It should be a priority worth seeking, not avoiding.

When Christians turn a blind eye to justice, they are turning their backs on God. Right now our world needs justice more than ever. Immigrants and refugees are being vilified, people are being unfairly incarcerated, and are being discriminated against based on their race, gender, and religion. and our structural frameworks are being controlled and safeguarded by brokers who have an unquenchable thirst for control, power, and money.

God hates injustice. Scripture tells us that, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord (Prov. 17:15).” Christendom has too often become an accomplice to injustice, and much of “Christianity” has become a reliable tool for governments, politicians, and others to commit evil at the expense of the innocent, where its followers and creeds are selectively used to rationalize violence, oppression, racism, xenophobia, and bigotry.

Christendom has become so uncomfortable with justice that it’s even publicly opposed it. Large Christian communities have ignored the victims of injustice, and churches have even slandered parts of it — especially social justice — as being “dangerous” and “distracting.” Rather than fight for justice, prominent Christian organizations decided to publish theological statements attacking social justice — signaling their discomfort with aligning themselves with anyone other than the most prominent political rulers. 

Unlike greedy and broken societal structures, God's justice stands out for being accessible to the marginalized and especially dangerous to those who are typically immune to the consequences of their immorality — the rich and privileged. In the bible, this justice is routinely put within the context of defending the powerless and condemning the powerful, a contrast that reveals the historic imbalance of fairness and justice that plagues all societies.

God's justice is divine, meant to benefit everyone created in God's divine image. It’s not dictated by man-made laws, branches of government, political parties, lobbyists, or authoritarian officials. It's not biased towards the wealthy or powerful, and cannot be bought by high-priced lawyers. It's not fueled by populist opinions or partisan rage, and isn’t facilitated through broken systems and institutions. Instead, God’s justice is holy and unblemished, eternally seeking to free the enslaved, empower the downtrodden, and bring judgement upon the oppressors.

Righteous justice is founded upon the principles of two commands: to love God with all your heart, and to love your neighbor as yourself. If your spiritual community avoids the pursuit of justice because it’s “too political” or “too controversial” or because it simply cannot forsake it’s political and ideological idols — it’s failed. But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (Luke 11:42) There’s no middle ground between justice and injustice, and as believers our faith is either perpetually manifesting itself for justice or against it.

Godly justice is fueled by love, a love for the poor, the widow, those who are cast aside and powerless—the immigrants, refugees, homeless, sick, abandoned, and persecuted. When “Christianity” doesn’t pursue justice it becomes complicit to evil. It protects abusers, votes for bigots, covers up wrongdoings, feeds upon corruption, preys upon the vulnerable, and seeks power rather than accountability — it looks nothing like Jesus. Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Prov. 31:8-9) Rather than be apathetic or passive in the face of injustice, Christians must be the most passionate advocate for justice, even if it means betraying one’s own political, social, or familial allegiances.

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