Outrage. Injustice. Shock. Despair. Hatred. Confusion.
These words aptly describe the myriad of emotions that have been stirred up in consciences and souls, both individually and within whole sectors of society this week with atrocity upon atrocity upon atrocity piling up.
While it is terribly unfortunate that these words which accompany injustice in all its forms describe a common human experience, they have done so from the screaming blood of Abel’s unjust death.
While everyone has experienced at least some mild form of injustice, those who have experienced grave injustice or systemic injustice know better how loudly injustice causes the human heart to roar for change.
Amos, a tree-keeper and sheep-herder, was called by God to denounce systemic injustice in Israel that caused rage in the heart of God, who in addition to praise from His people longs for justice for and from His people particularly.
Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream. Amos 5:24.
The image is mostly lost on us; but Amos’ words to audience would have conjured a vivid and realistic picture.
In his explanation of the social justice tradition within Christendom, Richard Foster explains the following concerning the original context of this imagery.
“Living in the desert, they knew well the characteristics of the wadi, the streamed. Much of the year the wadi was bone-dry and of no benefit to anyone, but when the rains come, the first rushing wall of water flows with such force that anyone caught in the wadi will surely be swept away and drowned. And so Amos calls for justice (mishap) to roll down like the raging torrent in a freshly fed wadi. Yet unlike that water in the wadi, which often dwindles to nothing, the righteousness is to be an overflowing stream, flowing day after day, year in and year out, under good circumstances and bad.”
In the realm of realized justice, the social and spiritual landscape of Amos’ day mirrored the physical landscape. Arid, bleak and thirsty, leaving much to be desired. The sad state of reality caused Amos, as God’s mouthpiece, to loudly long for the day when justice would come crushing through the dry wadi, restoring the cracked ground to its intended splendor.
What Amos didn’t realize is the path that justice would take to arrive.
In order for even a trickle of justice to visit those waiting in the wadis of injustice, a flood of injustice and wrath would have to be released unto the perfectly just Son of God.
The One to whom justice was due sat waiting in the wadi of the broken world, trembling because He knew what was coming. The flood of God’s hatred for and rage against the injustices of sin in all its individual, communal, societal and generational was about to be unleashed from the dam that had been holding it back since the Fall.
And released it was, on the Cross, where Christ was literally suffocated by injustice. Through His resurrection and His sending the Spirit, He has opened up the way back to the God of justice for the unjust.
As evangelicals (a loaded term with a wide-range of meaning in different circles), this must absolutely be the beginning of our cries of justice.
That being said, it must be more than a beginning. It must become a burning passion for proximate justice that expands within us as our experience of the love of Christ expands.
The painful lengths that Jesus took to bring justice for those who were still His enemies become both a means of salvation and a model for those who are called by His name.
While most believers would agree with this conceptually, the arguments amp up when it comes to how this desire for justice is practically played out.
Those who most deeply cry out for the injustices done to the unborn through abortion tend to belittle those who cry out for the injustices done to entire races through systemic slavery, both ancient and modern. Vice versa. Those crying out for the injustices done to police and those who cry out for the injustices done to an entire gender often won’t see eye to eye.
As God’s people, we would do well to remember that we are called to be on God’s side against injustice, that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers and authorities and powers over this present darkness (Ephesians 6:12).
We are brothers and sisters in Christ who come from different sectors and have experienced different injustices to different degrees. Perhaps the current upheaval in our society affords believers the opportunity to hear the stories of brother and sisters in Christ who have been acutely affected by different injustices.
After all, there are multiple wadis of injustice, many places of scorched ground crying out for things to be made right again after the pattern intended by God in creation. Perhaps, as fellow recipients of the same undeserved love at the cost of cosmic injustice done to the same Christ, we are looking to and longing for the same everlasting wave of justice and righteousness.