Reflections on Justice and Hope

by Cecilia Yau | September 07, 2011
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In patriarchy, not only is the misuse and abuse of power justified, it is also institutionalized. But the misuse and abuse of power is abominable to God. The prophet Isaiah wrote: "I have more than enough of burnt offerings...Stop bringing meaningless offerings...Take your evil deeds out of my sight!" (Isa. 1:11-16). Then he solemnly declared in 1:17, "Seek justice, rebuke the oppressors, defend the fatherless and plead for the widows."

In the New Testament when Jesus stood up in the synagogue and read from the Book of Isaiah (Luke 4:16-21), he was announcing a social revolution, the coming of the kingdom of God. In that kingdom, the oppressed will be released, the debts of the poor will be canceled, the land will be healed, and social justice will be restored.

Matthew quotes Isaiah to point out that Jesus was the chosen servant who "will proclaim justice to the nations...A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory..." (Matt. 12:15-21).

Jesus himself lived such a life and passed on this vision to his disciples. He was compassionate toward the outcasts, the lepers, the sick, the sinners, and yes, the women. He touched them, healed them, and befriended them. He rebuked the leaders who abused their power. He created a divine community, the church, to live out the kingdom values and to change the power structure of the world. And the way of conquest began with his love and suffering on the cross.

As evangelicals, we have turned a blind eye to social injustice for too long and we need to repent of that. The Bible is full of injunctions for God's people to stand up for the oppressed and the poor. The prophet Micah's call rings in our ears, loud and clear, "He 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" (Mic. 6:8).

Many Christians have heard the biblical call to justice, but often times we feel hopeless in the face of massive cruelty and violence, experienced even by some of us. Gary Haugen, founder and president of International Justice Mission, observes, "The struggle against injustice is not fought on the battlefield of power and truth or even righteousness...in the end the battle against oppression stands or falls on the battlefield of hope." How true! We are too often intimated by problems and tend to give up too soon.

Oppressors understand this better than we do. They count on our inaction because of despair. Their victory depends on our doing nothing. Edmund Burke said it eloquently, "All it takes for evil to prevail is for good [people] to do nothing."

So where do we find hope? Justice is fundamental to God's character and God declares that he loves justice (Isa. 61:8). The character and the Word of God are sufficient to give us hope and courage to seek justice in the face of the ugly oppression of the world. God has entrusted power to leaders on all levels of the society. When leaders abuse their power for selfish gain and inflict harm on their people, God holds them accountable for the injustice.

The suffering of this world is not so much a question of God's character, but of the obedience of his people. When we see the injustices done to women in different cultures, some with such cruelty, our hearts are broken. We cry out to God, "Why are you silent and why do you allow this to happen? Why do you stand afar and do nothing when you have the power? Where are you, God?"

No, we do not understand all the mysteries of human suffering. We may see it as God's problem. But God is always close to those oppressed, as seen in the Scriptures. It is us Christians who are far off because we do not care enough and we lose hope easily.

Dear God of compassion and justice, as we gather before you, help us to know you and your Word better, to reflect your character better. Thank you for what you have done in each of our lives. As we share, may we find even greater courage and hope to press forward in the journey to which you have called us.
 

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