The walls are crumbling. The doors are flung open. And I am there, kneeling with you, and we are trembling.
We are trembling for fear of what’s to come, for fear of who we have been, for fear of who we might be called to become. I feel this trembling in your messages and the conversations we’ve had over the past few days.
There is an unsettling outcry, a cataclysmic anger, a booming sadness in our nation, these days, and I’m afraid, we are watching from the disillusioned safety of our exclusion.
This is the sentiment of what I want to write to you, dear reader. I am writing, first and foremost, always to myself, because I need to put these words down; put them down like a map to a better world when our carefully constructed walls collapse. I have determined to write honestly and bravely. To be vulnerable and willing to make mistakes and have hard conversations because the ripping of flesh is what creates new strength and I want to thank all the people who replied to my recent words and asked hard questions and called me to explore the weight of this topic.
Let’s talk about justice. There are many kinds of justice; social justice, economic justice, environmental justice, retributive justice and redemptive justice, just to name a few. I received many messages from readers saying “justice is God’s department, not ours” and this is the focus of my words today. For me first, and maybe for you.
What is justice? Merriam-Webster says that it is simply “just behavior or treatment: a concern for justice, peace, and genuine respect for people”.
This is putting a stop to gossip. This is kindness to people different from ourselves. This is the outcry for peace between two opposing sides. This is the justice I stand for. This is the justice I raise my hand against the dying day in hopes of a better tomorrow.
For many of my readers (it may be the boomer generation’s interpretation) justice conjures images of beatings, lynchings, and the resounding bang of a gavel against the remnants of someone’s life. This likely is judgement. The dictionary describes judgement as “the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions – a decision of a court or judge”. Although I know the judicial system is necessary, I belong to the kingdom of peace.
What is redemptive justice? When I first learned of this term, I was sitting in an ethics class discussing the age old case of a boy who stole bread because without stealing, he would starve to death.
Redemptive justice makes me cry tonight, friends, as I write these words to you and to myself. I am that boy. I have stolen from others to feed my self-serving interests. I have tested God’s love time and again only to have Him arrive and love me still. Redemptive justice is a justice that ends in reconciliation and peace for all people involved. Redemptive justice is the act of Jesus dying on the cross to absolve us of our sin so if I’m a Christian who isn’t about justice, then I’m a Christian who isn’t about Christ.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, in Between the World and Me, writes to his black son about growing up in a white America, these words: The new people were something else before they were white — Catholic, Corsican, Welsh, Mennonite, Jewish — and if all our national hopes have any fulfillment, then they will have to be something else again. Perhaps they will truly become American and create a nobler basis for their myths. I cannot call it. As for now, it must be said that the process of washing the disparate tribes of white, the elevation of the belief in being white, was not achieved through wine tastings and ice cream socials, but rather through the pillaging of life, liberty, labor, and land; through the flaying of backs; the chaining of limbs; the strangling of dissidents; the destruction of families; the rape of mothers; the sale of children; and various other acts meant, first and foremost, to deny you and me the right to secure and govern our own bodies.”
To be a Christian, then, is to acknowledge that our lineage and culture and way of viewing our immediate society was built on deep-rooted subconscious racism. To be a Christian who stands for justice, especially redemptive justice, is to be a Christian who attempts to resolve this inequality by peaceful reconciliation, to stamp out our own personal biases, to work hard to loosen the economic, social, and educational chains binding our black neighbors. To be a Christian who stands for justice is to step out of our carefully constructed walls excluding us from the world and its problems and start asking the hard questions and living the hard truths. To be a Christian is to recognize God as the creator of life, to recognize God who created man in His image, and to love all of His precious children.
“There are two aspects to the importance of treating human life reverently. First, proper respect for human life is essential for the happiness and well-being of a society. Secondly, it is imperative if one is to serve and worship God in truth.” Bible Doctrine & Practice, pg. 408.
“Maintain justice and do what is right,” God tells us and it’s not enough anymore to knee-jerk respond with our canned answers of I love black people and I believe God created all men equal and it’s just in their DNA not to succeed because I have said these things and I’m ashamed and I’m absolutely certain we are called to be better than this by the God we serve. The issue is so much bigger than what we see outside our crumbling walls and it’s time to disrupt our most intimate ways of thinking and challenge ourselves to see a different light. “For my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.” -Isaiah 56:1
The walls around our lives are crumbling, dear reader, and we are kneeling within the church, our beautiful church with its doors flung open to all, and we are trembling now, not out of fear, but out of hope for what we might accomplish in God’s name if we learned to love a little bit better.
Written from a place of acknowledging I will make many mistakes but a true desire to keep having the hard conversations. If you would like to educate yourself on the topic, consider purchasing the aforementioned book Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo.