Is the Justice Movement Just a Trend?
The deep roots of justice in Christianity.
“Why is justice such a trend right now?”
I am asked this question all the time, and I have major issues with it.
This question makes a huge assumption, namely that justice really
If justice is a trend, then most people are participating mainly because they see their friends participating. But I don’t see this as the reason people get involved in justice work.
Actually, this is far from the first time Christians cared about justice issues. Justice has deep roots tracing back through the earliest days of Christianity.
When the Israelites were coming out of slavery in Egypt and heading toward the Promised Land, Moses paused their journey so he could receive God’s vision for the new community. Part of this vision was a community of believers that would live justly toward one another.
God wanted a society where leaders would not pervert justice and take bribes (Deuteronomy 16:19), where neighbors would voluntarily forgive debts every seven years to ensure no long-term poverty (Deuteronomy 15:1-2) and where those in poverty could still survive through laws of gleaning (Leviticus 19:9-10). Much of the Hebrew law was to establish a society where believers could live justly and righteously.
The vision God had for the Israelites continued with Jesus and the establishment of the early church. Jesus desired people loving their neighbors as much as they loved themselves (John 13:34). He wanted a generous community (1 Timothy 6:18). In His first public recorded sermon, Jesus quotes Isaiah’s prophecy that He had come to set the captives free (Luke 4:16-21).
When Christ fulfilled the law, He paved a way for justice to flourish through the Christian community. And while imperfect, the Christian community has been a light for justice in seemingly dark times. Consider a few examples:
– Infanticide was rampant in the Roman Empire, especially when babies were born with defects or female. Early Christians spoke out against this inhumane practice.
– When a plague was spreading through the Empire, Roman elites fled out of town to safety. Christians stayed to help both the Christian and non-Christian dying. Their work was so counter-cultural that the pagan emperor took notice.
– 18th century Christians such as William Wilberforce fought to end slavery for over 40 years in Great Britain. Wilberforce’s life was threatened on more than one occasion. He suffered greatly for the cause, but ultimately saw slavery abolished in the British Empire.
– Christian writer and activist Hannah Moore helped educate women and working-class children in a time when no one else would during Great Britain’s Industrial revolution.
– 19th century Christian William Lloyd Garrison fought to end slavery in America for over 40 years. He was so hated in parts of the South that U.S. Senators were willing to pay a bounty for his life. He was threatened, imprisoned and narrowly escaped lynching multiple times for his commitment to ending slavery.
– Christians responded to the needs of tens of thousands of orphans after World War II and the Korean Conflict, establishing organizations to directly meet the need.
As younger Christians have responded to the growing injustices in our world today like modern day slavery, child soldiers, the HIV/Aids epidemic and others, they are joining a long history of Christians fighting against the injustices of their day.
The reality is, the current generation isn’t the first to care about justice. They are one of hundreds of generations before them that are heeding the call to seek justice, a call that God planted into the heart of His people.
A Better Question
I think we’re asking the wrong question. It’s not, “Is justice a trend?” or “What happens when justice is no longer trendy?” The better question is, “Why does justice resonate so deeply?”
Justice resonates so much with believers because justice is an integral part of our Heavenly Father, and His likeness was passed onto each of us.
“For the Lord is righteous, He loves justice; the upright will see His face” (Psalm 11:7).
Justice is at the heart of God and a core component of His call for His children. God desires us to seek justice in our lives and the world around us. When we participate in activities God desires, it has a positive effect on our faith—leading to further action.
God spoke through Micah, asking, “What does the Lord require?” The answer:
“Learn to do good. Seek justice. Love mercy. And walk humbly with your God “ (Micah 6:8).
What does it mean to seek justice?
“Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow” (Isaiah 1:17).
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8–9).
I think justice resonates so deeply with people today because it is supposed to. The Christian faith has and always will include serving the least of these in our world. Following Jesus implies a certain a level of action (James 1:22). When our faith does not include the action of serving others, we grow stagnant. But when we are serving others, a level of joy and fulfillment happens that is otherwise impossible.
Justice was God’s idea. It’s been a component of His plan all along. This is why justice resonates. And this is why I’m not afraid that justice is a trend. Every generation will have people serious about following Jesus, and they will inevitably be about seeking justice for the least of these in their world.