“Will you strive for Justice & Peace Among All People’s
and Respect the Dignity of Every Human Being?”
At our Baptism all who gather are asked by the priest – and again by our bishop at confirmation, as well as at each Easter Vigil the question stated above. Our common response is “I will with God’s help.” Increasingly these days during morning and evening prayers and soul-searching this vow is a piercing question. And one of the reasons I think this question is hounding me like the dogs of heaven, is that the word “justice” is a social term. It’s about relationships between people; it’s about our responsibilities to other people, not just as individuals, but as members of communities of people, such as churches, states, nations. Even when we act ‘justly’ as an individual, we do so in relationship to another human being, or group of human beings, or in relationship to mother earth and the communities of living and inanimate nature with which our lives are intertwined. And perhaps, the most difficult things to decide in life are questions of “social justice”—questions about what groups of people should and shouldn’t do, ways we should and shouldn’t act, things we need to accomplish or avoid as persons in community.
Whatever else we mean by justice, Anglicanism has steadfastly understood justice as a sign of the Realm of God, the presence of the divine in our midst, as Jesus taught in the Parable of the Kingdom. Justice is an integral part of what we mean by “Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world…as we pray and worship, proclaim the Gospel and promote justice, peace and love.” Justice is about God’s own, sometimes totally surprising and unnerving sense of the standards by which God measures justice.
Jesus of Nazareth is portrayed as one with a special concern for the poor and oppressed, the weak and the needy. Justice is demanded of each of us in our individual dealings, yet it is above all a demand placed upon governments and the societies they govern. For justice is fundamentally about our life in community. And God’s standard of justice is time and again a measure of our ability to be concerned enough to act in the face of the inequities of life, overcoming the conditions that produce them.
It is a word of judgment to those who would take more from those whom we have allowed to have so little to begin with. It is a word of retribution only against the oppressor, not the oppressed. Justice is about deliverance. Let us pray for it. Let us pray that our lives are shaped by it—not only in what we believe, yet in the way we act toward one another, especially the “least of God’s creatures.”
The COVID-19 virus has opened a monumental crack of injustice brightly illuminating those who are ‘the least of these’, God’s chosen used for the prosperity of others. NLJ+