Jesus is Justice
By Jamerson Watson | October 26, 2020
What is Jesus to you? Is He a great ruler, clothed in the finest regalia ready to rule and do battle? Is He a warrior shroud in fatigues and combat boots, perched in spiritually high places with a rifle of the spirit? Is He a barrel chested superhero donning a cape and a bullet proof J across his breast? Or maybe He’s a lowly social worker of the spirit-type living a simple, ascetic life, greeting the most marginalized with a heart of peace? Let’s be clear. He’s more than all of these. But, whatever you project onto Jesus, they all have one thing in common: Jesus is just.
At least that’s the Jesus that the scripture captures for us throughout the Gospels. We have this New Testament tableau in our minds of Jesus’ action moments. His first sermon reading of Isaiah. His sermon on the mount. Driving the money changers from the temple. Jesus feeding the five thousand. Jesus healing the man near the pool of Siloam. Jesus with the woman at the well. Jesus defending the woman caught in adultery. Jesus on the cross. Jesus walking the road to Emmaus with two disciples. This is the good news. In spite of our condition, interest, behavior, or ignorance, Jesus will always stand for us and with us, holding the good news within our reach. Jesus came to bring good news to the poor, release those held captive, bring sight to the blind, or deliver the oppressed (Luke 4:18/Isaiah 61:1). Those who are already rich, free, sight-abled, and liberated have their justice. Don’t get it twisted. The gospel is for all. But Jesus has a particular interest in those that society has shunned and insulted.
Think about anytime someone brings you good news. It brings glad tidings to your heart. The good news of Jesus Christ is life everlasting, far away from the hurt of prejudice, discrimination, and bias. But, Jesus teaches us to pray “thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” Our ultimate reward is to be sealed as represented by the 144,000 in Revelations 7. But, God doesn’t want His children to be oppressors or to be the oppressed. So when Indigenous people are pushed from their land and relegated to barren reservations, God sees. When one in four women is a victim of sexual assault, God hears their cries. When the infant mortality rate for Black children in the USA–the wealthiest and most technologically advanced country in the world–is worse than the rates for infants in Thailand, Cuba, and China, God’s heart breaks. And when a woman is shot in her bed and the only consequences for the shooters result from bullets that missed her, God’s heart for justice should be stirred in us as deeply as it is when we see a trafficked youth alone on International Blvd, a woman in Banda Aceh, Indonesia experiencing paralysis her entire life, a teenage girl from the Mission pressured into having an abortion, or a four year old boy separated from his mother at the Texas/Mexico border.
It doesn’t mean that the rich, haughty, and powerful don’t deserve justice. But, justice is required when someone has been wronged without the power for recourse. Justice isn’t transactional. It’s not a “meet this standard of respectability and you’ll be treated fairly” or “stop being angry and we’ll consider offering you recompense.” Those forms of justice are perversions of justice as seen through Jewish and Christian scripture. Pacifist theologian, Ted Grimsrud, suggests that Jesus as the arbiter of justice has “been obscured in the history of English-speaking Christianity by the decision of New Testament translators to render the Greek word dikaiosune and its derivatives as “righteousness” (and “righteous,” “unrighteous,” “wicked,” and “wickedness”) instead of as “justice” (and “just,” and “unjust,” and “injustice”).” We would be wise to stop separating Jesus from justice. It’s as ridiculous as separating God from love. It’s as blatant as separating the tree from its roots and as impossible as removing the water from the ocean. Don’t let your stubbornness, pride, and ego get in the way of you living out a life mirroring Jesus.
One way we call for justice is through protest, as reflected in the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Protest isn’t ungodly anymore than voting or petitioning the government for a redress of grievances is ungodly. The Bible doesn’t explicitly dictate the right way to protest, except to say “do everything in love.” Protest in love is not rebellion. Protest in love is not divisive. Protest in love is not hatred. Protest in love is an act of justice. It’s an act of mercy. It’s telling your oppressor that you still believe he’s capable of changing. Protest is calling attention to powerful people’s flaws and mistakes, yes. But, non-violent protest is also an act of love calling your oppressor back into the social contract of community and equity in good faith, trusting that they will listen. Stop being afraid of protest.
“But, Jamerson, I just don’t feel led to march.” Okay. God may not have called you specifically to march in the streets, but did He lay it on your heart to attend a rally? He may not have asked you to write letters to your state or US Senator to call for prison reform or early childhood education, but do you feel convicted to donate to Adopt-A-Child? Maybe blocking highway traffic isn’t for you, but have you considered serving the city through Local Outreach?
Dr King said in 1966 during a convocation at Illinois Wesleyan University, “It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, “Wait on time.” After John the Baptist was put in prison, according to Jesus in Mark 1:15, “The time has come,” he said, “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” We can’t wait on time, as Dr. King suggested. The time for justice is now. And Jesus is the embodiment of that justice. Pastor Benjamin recently preached that “He reigns through His sacrifice.” If He died for us, shouldn’t we live for Him? And if we live FOR Him, shouldn’t we live LIKE Him? That means sacrificing for the least of your sisters and brothers. That’s what it means to live for justice. I know that it’s exhausting, time consuming, and makes people uncomfortable. No one said that walking this life of faith would be easy. If this walk were easy, everyone would do it. Think of anything people do in mainstream culture. It’s either because it brings them comfort/makes life easier or they are yearning to fit in. As Francis Chan once said, “In the church, in America, we are obsessed with staying alive.” It’s time for us to walk in justice, not because everyone else is watching, it makes us feel good, or we benefit personally. But because that’s the gospel. The question we should all ask ourselves is “does my life prove that I believe the Gospel?”