Summary: This is the second in a two-part series on the topic, "Do Justice".
I was probably 9 or 10 when the doorbell rang one day, and answering the door, I recognized the man holding a clipboard as a neighbor, father of a friend of mine. He asked if my dad was home, and in a few moments, Dad came to the door. After exchanging pleasantries, the gentleman informed Dad of the reason for his visit. He was circulating a petition, asking neighbors to sign in opposition to apartment buildings scheduled to go up nearby and so, our terminally-Caucasian community would no doubt be integrated, and, well, we just couldn't have that. I will never forget how my Dad—my hero—gently explained that he could not sign the petition, said goodbye, and calmly closed the door. What does it mean to “do justice” when a neighbor rings the doorbell? This is our Scripture today:
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
Last week, we laid the foundation of Micah's words in 6:8; here were a people who had some of the outward trappings of religiosity, but who turned a blind eye to the many injustices taking place all around them. It’s interesting how regularly this very scenario shows up in the prophets. Amos prophesied 100 years earlier than Micah, to the northern kingdom of Israel rather than the southern kingdom of Judah; listen to God's words, as recorded in Amos 5:
“I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
"Let justice roll down" came from the lips of Martin Luther King one warm summer day in 1963, as his plaintive words became the rallying cry for a movement of justice for people of color all across this country, and today, we can both rejoice in the fact that to a significant degree, Dr. King's wonderful dream has come true, on the one hand, and lament, on the other, that there remain parts of that dream that are still only that: a dream. Let justice roll down!
We said last week that the foundations of justice were an understanding of our Creator God’s holy and just nature, His sovereignty over all, His special creation of man as God’s image-bearer, though marred by sin, and finally of the Bible, God’s standard for conduct, for what it looks like to do justice. That’s today’s theme: how do we “do justice”? Do we hop on the “social justice” train and become “SJWs”—social justice warriors? I’m not so sure...Google “social justice” (later, not now!) and some of the organizations that pop up just to the right are ones which many of us would believe represent the opposite of justice. “Social justice”? Maybe not. “Biblical justice”, though, is the call for Christ-followers.
Justice means giving every person what they are due, impartially, fairly, equitably. Often in the Bible, there is a quartet of individuals who are mentioned in connection with doing justice: widows, orphans, immigrants, and the poor. The brunt of injustice was often borne by these four groups of individuals. Often, individuals in these groups were only days from starvation, in the event of some social disruption. In some ways, not much has changed in all these millennia, has it? Prejudice and injustice are still often directed toward those who "don't look like us" or those whose socio-economic condition is lower than that of middle-class America. In other parts of the world, injustice is even worse. Sub-Saharan Africa today has 11 million AIDS orphans, children whose lives are up for grabs. In many parts of Asia, when a woman’s husband dies, it is the widow who carries the blame and shame. In her time of need, she is often declared cursed and is rejected by her neighbors, her community and even her family. Human trafficking is rampant all over the world, including here at home; you are probably sadly aware that Atlanta is a hotbed of it. One indispensable part of seeing that justice is done, then, involves propagating the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ to people the world over. Jesus transforms people such that they want to do what is right, to stop such abuse. The Bible has good news for these marginalized individuals and groups; the gospel promises forgiveness of sin, reconciliation with a holy God, acceptance in the beloved. The gospel is for the oppressed of all types. God is for the forgotten, the beat-down, the shut-out and the left-behind. But the question for today is, in addition to gospel proclamation, what do the people of God do to defend the cause of the oppressed?