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Ahmaud Arbury. George Floyd. Two men who died unjustly.
When I watched the graphic videos, I was left with a raw speechlessness. And even rawer questions. Why chase a young man ruthlessly with guns? Why ignore an older man’s pleas for air? Whatever happened to genuine conversation without assumptions? Whatever happened to compassion even in the middle of conflict?
As my mind scrolled through possible answers, some were swept away as rationalizations. Others faded as excuses. Still more were exposed as lies.
But what held firm was the conviction, grounded in God’s Word, that both were horrific injustices. Even a quick mental review of biblical justice left me knowing that what I saw was exactly that—unjust. Period.
“Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked.” (Ex. 23:7)
God’s command to Israel at that time reflects his heart for all time. He’s clear—inventing “reasons” to take action against those who are innocent is perversion. Wickedness. Wrong. For our benefit, Scripture details, in both covenants, the just ways God wants all people treated. Yes, when they are wronged, when they do wrong; when they are right, when they do right. The poor. The rich. The in-between. The citizen. The sojourner. The colored, regardless of our shade or hue. Truly, the last three words of America’s Pledge of Allegiance are quite biblical —“justice for all.”
Let me be even more pointed. The call to treat all people justly doesn’t disappear just because you think a crime has been committed. Even when one has, God’s ordained authorities must protect and punish justly (Romans 13), not indiscriminately or inconsistently (Prov. 11:11; 20:10). Justice isn’t justice just because it’s preceded by vigilante. Or any other qualifier for that matter.
How sad that some see these situations (i.e., Arbury and Floyd) as exceptions, claiming this isn’t unjust. But on the contrary! Unjust exceptions are precisely what occur when qualifiers are attached. Unnecessary qualifiers, I might add. “He was black.” “He was running from the scene.” “He looked suspicious.” “He was resisting.”
Here’s more. “It’s just a fetus.” “They’re too old to have any quality of life.” Qualifiers like color, conditions, or class don’t negate or dismiss what happens in real time and space: An injustice occurs to another human being, a person indelibly stamped with God’s image. Marred by sin, yes. But the imago dei isn’t erased. So justice is in order. For all people. At all times.
Make no mistake—Justice doesn’t need qualified. It should be the same regardless of race, economics, life stage, religion, or a host of any other man-made labels. It should be expected. Pursued. Cried out for. And it should be applied evenly. Fairly. Truly, it should be blind. It appears, however, we’re leaving out the ‘l’ and hoping we can “bind” justice, using it as we see fit based on our definitions, definitions that are twisted due to qualifiers.
Which is precisely why the church—her leaders especially—must not shy away from calling out injustice, as well as the qualifiers that wrongfully provide for its cover. Count me in as one who will do exactly that, whether it be to the ears of the abortionist, the racist, or the euthanasist. Those are all examples of qualifiers that have perverted justice. Leaders must commit to the courage to stand and speak against those things.
Because people matter. Justice matters. Let’s work for both without qualification or reservation.
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