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This Easter, let’s reconsider the true meaning of justice

We should not remain satisfied with being simply “evangelists” or “activists,” because that was not the way of Jesus.

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Demonstrators demand justice for the victims of the Atlanta spa shooting and for an end to racism, xenophobia and misogyny at rally Saturday, March 27, 2021 in downtown Los Angeles.

Damian Dovarganes, Associated Press

The world is abuzz (and rightly so) over the idea of justice. But what is justice?

We can look to any number of people or sources to answer that question. A Google search yields nearly 9.6 million hits. But I believe we find the answer in scripture.

The author of Psalm 89 writes, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your (God’s) throne; love and faithfulness go before you” (Psalm 89:14). Righteousness, justice, love and faithfulness are inseparable from one another.

This is why the cross — where righteousness, justice, love and faithfulness met on that Friday 2,000 years ago — is true justice.

In our church’s lobby, we have a photo of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We also have a photo of the Rev. Billy Graham. For years, I have had this seemingly crazy dream that we can reconcile the Rev. Dr. King’s marches with the Rev. Graham’s messages of salvation through Jesus Christ. 

Of course, this is not to say that the Rev. Dr. King didn’t embrace the message of salvation through Jesus Christ or that the Rev. Graham didn’t embrace biblical justice. They did, in their own ways. They were two very different men from two very different backgrounds who saw their need for a Savior and society’s need for transformation. But their approaches were different; and their approaches brought about change.

Yet today, churches across America are still split between the followers of the Rev. Dr. King and the Rev. Graham, not just racially or ethnically, but theologically. We have created a false dichotomy between orthodoxy and orthopraxy. 

If we do not reconcile the approaches of the Rev. Dr. King and the Rev. Graham, then we miss the meaning of God’s justice — exemplified and embodied in the Crucifixion and Resurrection — entirely. 

We should not remain satisfied with being simply “evangelists” or “activists,” because that was not the way of Jesus. 

If we truly desire to embrace the prophet Micah’s call to “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God,” (Micah 6:8) we must repent. We must repent of how we have forgone justice and righteousness in favor of love and faithfulness, how we have forgone love and faithfulness in favor of  justice and righteousness. We cannot share the Good News without also doing good, and we cannot do good without sharing the Good News. 

I am not saying we must deny our experiences, our gifts, our passions or our personalities and become something we are not. But no matter who we are or where we are from, if we claim to follow Jesus Christ, then we are all working from the same set of instructions:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). 

We cannot afford to be bystanders. Jesus did not call us to a lifestyle of comfort. But we also cannot afford to water down the truth, however unpopular that truth may be. We have to live out a new day and become new people, moving forward, advancing righteousness and justice, love and faithfulness. It’s doable. I believe younger generations, millennials and Generation Z, will lead the way in this reconciliation — in fact, they already are

The prophet Isaiah tells us, “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6). 

That is what was accomplished on Good Friday and on Easter Sunday. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ brought about justice, the loosening of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bonds. It brought about the restoration of the relationship between God and his image bearers — every one of us. This justice is what allows for us to work out redemption and reconciliation in our homes, our neighborhoods, our cities, our states, our nation and our world. 

If we call ourselves God’s people, then righteousness, justice, love and faithfulness are what we are to be about. Not just on sacred holidays, but every single day.

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. CNN and FOX News have called him “the leader of the Hispanic evangelical movement” and Time magazine nominated him among the 100 most influential leaders in America.