I have been thinking a lot lately about issues of justice. I know I’m definitely not alone in this. Of course, those tracking with IHOP-KC are aware of the justice initiatives that have called us, as a community, to really pray into, serve into, and seek the Lord’s heart regarding justice.
But it seems that even the secular media has been caught up in a heightened cry for justice on the earth. I cannot remember a time in my life where I have seen more news articles, grassroots movements, and celebrity endorsements of justice issues. From ending human trafficking, to eradicating poverty, to protecting the environment, our culture is getting more and more sold on the idea that we ought to do something about all the systemic wrongs in the world.
At one level, there’s not much to argue with in that mindset. Who wouldn’t want to care for the poor and outcast? Who wouldn’t want to feed the hungry? Who wouldn’t want to see all people treated as full human beings, worthy of respect? Wasn’t Jesus Himself pretty into those things?
Aha, but that leads us to the gaping flaw in the modern justice movement. People often talk about how Jesus was involved in similar efforts. Even so, they are loath to include Him in it now, much less put Him at the head of it — where He ought to be.
The result? We make a progressively bigger mess of things the more we try to fix them.
It is crucial that Jesus remain the beginning and end of any justice activism we engage in. Obviously, our secular culture misses the boat on this, but I feel that we as Christians are also vulnerable to all the pitfalls of a misplaced focus. Not only is Jesus the ultimate authority of what justice even is, He is still the only One to whom we may safely entrust our full attention and energy.
Simply put: We can’t do this on our own. It is dangerous to try.
One of the reasons for this is that we are very, very limited creatures. Even the most dedicated, fiery, justice-minded individual on earth doesn’t care about every issue to the degree it deserves. We can’t. We don’t have that capacity. Most of us have one or two issues that we really care about, a handful of issues we care quite a bit about, and then the rest that, while we acknowledge them as significant, they just don’t stir our hearts that same way.
This is an okay start. We can only do what we can do. But as a result, when we try to approach justice on our own, in our own power, whole new problems are created. We become tunnel-visioned for our one or two areas of passion. We want to fix them at all costs — even, unwittingly, creating more injustice elsewhere in our attempts.
For instance, feminism rightly wants to see that women are not systemically oppressed in society. That’s a good goal, and a legitimate problem in most cultures worldwide. However, in modern feminism’s limited scope, the unborn have been stripped of the very right to life. The pro-choice arguments make a lot of sense if the only people whose rights matter are the women. But tunnel-vision forces thousands of innocent children’s lives to daily take a back seat to women’s (otherwise legitimate) right to say what happens to their own bodies.
Another aspect of this that has come to my attention recently is in the efforts of PETA. Love them or hate them, agree with every point of their charter or not, we can all probably agree on the fundamental point: We shouldn’t be cruel to animals. Puppy mills, poaching, and pet abuse are legitimately wrong. But in order to rectify these types of abuses — and other milder ones, real or perceived — PETA often resorts to advertisements that are intensely objectifying of women. In their ads, women have been shown nude, or nearly nude, sometimes shoved in cages, sometimes drawn up like choice cuts of meat. In order to solve one area of injustice, a whole group of people is treated — well, like animals.
Bono and U2 would be another, much different example. Feeding those who are starving is unquestionably a good thing to do. But it is coming at the cost of religious syncretism — and although this is not something that the world would identify as injustice, we as the people of God can recognize that it is leading untold numbers of people into deception. A temporal problem is being alleviated at the cost of an eternal death. It’s not a good trade.
Ultimately, these grievances (and every other one, as well) will be answered in the Millennial Kingdom. When Jesus Christ is seated on the throne, ruling the earth with equity, truth, and justice, He will have full capacity to care for and full capability to correct every moral wrong on the planet. We eagerly look forward to the day when His kingdom will be established among us.
That is not by any means to say that we give up on justice initiatives on this side of eternity. The Bible is replete with exhortations for us to pursue justice (take, for instance, Isaiah 58). The point I’m trying to make is that it would serve us well to pay attention to the fact that things only work properly when Jesus is in charge of them.
This changes everything about what we do and why we do it. We are not seeking justice just for justice’s sake, as if “justice” were some abstract, moral principle that exists separate and detached from a holy God. We are not trying to correct a human problem through purely human means. We stop trying to struggle with flesh and blood (Eph 6:12) — endlessly treating symptoms — but strike at the heart of the matter, which is always rooted in creation’s estrangement from God.
This means that our first line of attack is always prayer. It means that our efforts are done in partnership with the Holy Spirit, seeking Him in every step. It means that we are not just seeking to fix people, but to serve and minister to them, connecting their hearts to the Just One who is their mediator, defender and judge. It means that we act, not out of a guilty Western conscience, but out of true compassion that comes from encountering the love of God. It means that we are not driven by any political agenda, but are instead compelled by the love of Christ. It means that we are not satisfied with winning a debate or pushing through some legislation, but instead we seek wholesale revival unto the transformation of our society. It means that justice is not just about achieving moral “good,” but about seeing the will and kingdom of God demonstrated on the earth on this side of eternity.
Justice is about Jesus being glorified on the earth. Justice is about broken human beings becoming reconciled to God and receiving His comfort, provision, and healing, through natural and supernatural (and “naturally supernatural”) means. Justice is about knowing the heart of God, agreeing with it, and working to see those good plans and purposes brought about in our sphere of influence.
Jesus is perfectly just. He is the only human being who is able to effectively bring justice forth on the earth. He is the One who even defines what it is and shows us what it looks like. Without Him, there is no justice. Ever. And if we, as believers, want to maintain a clear, prophetic voice in this day and age, we must be clear on that fact and willing to hold the line on it.