There is a story about young Abraham Lincoln, who as an attorney handled a case that is an example of restoration and justice, even with someone who is seeking revenge. Young Lincoln was approached by a man who passionately insisted on bringing a lawsuit for $2.50 against an impoverished debtor. Lincoln tried to discourage him, but the man was bent on revenge. When he saw that the man would not be put off, Lincoln agreed to take the case and asked for a legal fee of $10, which the plaintiff paid. Lincoln then gave half the money to the defendant, who willingly confessed to the debt and paid the $2.50! Lincoln’s amazing and ingenious settlement, and the fact that the irate plaintiff was satisfied with it, should be an encouragement to us as parents and teachers, to seek ways that do not just settle differences when someone is wronged and achieve justice, but that begin the process of healing and restoring a whole relationship that has been broken.
Social justice is a term we are hearing a lot about these days. As we listen to all of the voices who are speaking about what social justice means to them, we as believers must recognize that if Jesus is to be Lord of our life, it would have to include the concept of social justice as well. The very example of Jesus is that He demonstrated His concern for those who were forgotten by society, those who were sick and disabled, and those who had very little of what the world can offer. I believe that for us as believers, social justice is about “loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.” In fact, for the believer it is an opportunity to portray what the God’s plan is for His kingdom where there will be no injustice, only God’s perfect righteousness, justice and love.
Christian music artist, Cochren & Co., has a song out about God’s plan for social justice. One day there’ll be no more waiting left for our souls. One day there’ll be no more children longing for home. One day when the kingdom comes right here where we stand. One day there’ll be no more anger left in our eyes. One day the color of our skin won’t cause a divide. One day we’ll be family, standing hand in hand and we will see the promised land, We will see the promised land. One day there’ll be no more lives taken too soon. One day there’ll be no more need for a hospital room. One day every tear that falls will be wiped by His hand, We will see the promised land. Hallelujah, there will be healing, From this heartbreak we’ve been feeling. We’ll sing in the darkest night ‘Cause we know that the light will come, And there will be healing, hallelujah.
In the Old Testament the ultimate goal of achieving true justice was to come to know God better. “Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? says the Lord,” Jeremiah 22:15b-16. In addition to knowing God better, we are taught that doing justice leads to shalom, peace. “Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness will abide in the fruitful field. The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever,” Isaiah 31:16-17.
As parents and teachers, our goal is to teach our students to know God better. But we are also challenged daily to maintain peace (shalom) within our homes, communities, and our classrooms. The Bible says that where there is justice, there is the possibility of peace, but we know that the opposite is also true, that where there is oppression and injustice, there can be no peace shalom. One of the names of Jehovah God is, Jehovah Shalom, which means “The Lord is Peace.” So what does Jehovah Shalom call us to experience in our lives, in our homes, in our classrooms, and in our nation? I believe it is certainly more than the absence of bickering, fighting, and rioting. The literal meaning of shalom is wholeness. It involves all the conditions of life that make for wholeness and harmony. Shalom is the goal of Jehovah God’s work as deliverer and liberator. God’s purpose in the world is to restore shalom wherever it has been broken. In fact, God’s will for all mankind is shalom, and the task for us as parents and Christian educators, is to do God’s will. It should be our purpose, every day, to use the normal situations which we encounter, as an opportunity to further the work of Jehovah Shalom by promoting restoration and wholeness when dealing with the wrongs and injustices we experience every day.
Robert Andrews, Ph.D.