“Social justice” is a loaded term. For liberals and progressives, it is a summative refrain containing their concerns for economic, gender, and racial equity, including much more governmental intervention righting historic wrongs. For conservatives, it has become a byword, representing ideologies and policies antithetical to human freedom and flourishing.
Justice is social! At its root, justice is well-ordered relationships – in business, personal interactions, political policy, and international relations. Justice implies fairness, but it is more than a legal referee. Justice includes access, equity, and opportunity in a civil society containing freedom of conscience and equal rights.
It is time to change our language and simply use the term, “Justice.” As we do, we will find that justice is inseparable from well-ordered loves. The desire for fairness is innate: no one has to teach a child to say, “no fair!” When we see oppression and violence, indignation rises within and we want to protect the innocent and punish the guilty. When we see discrimination, we heartily oppose such practices and want everyone to have opportunity to thrive.
Agape love and true justice are inseparable. Both involve deep reflection on the values and virtues underneath true freedom. Justice without love devolves to legalities without nuance and consideration of the whole person or situation. A sense of affection or compassion without justice becomes diluted mercy that endangers civil order and denigrates personal responsibility.
When we choose agape love and aim for holistic justice, reparations for slavery and Jim Crow move from the temporary redistribution of wealth to transformation of relationships and systems that ensure a better future for all while confronting the past. Banking, food, and job deserts are unacceptable. It is unconscionable that given equal brilliance and empirical data, that a small fraction of venture capital finds its way to African American entrepreneurs.
Justice and love will lead toward racial reconciliation that does not replace one form of hatred with another. Justice and agape love open the doors to fearless self-examination and evaluation of all economic and social systems. Individual iniquity is revealed, and repentance is possible. Institutional injustice is unveiled and repealed. There is hope when we choose a difference vision.