All justice is social. In our world of political correctness and virtue-signaling, of political checklists and polarized opinions, “social justice” is a phrase that has been highjacked by political extremists. On the Left, it becomes a catch-all for particular economic, moral, and social policies that opponents find subversive of American ideals. On the Right, the phrase is a signal that one can ignore what is about to be said! We need a new understanding of justice.
All justice is social. Justice is not mere retribution. Nor is justice forcible redistribution. Biblically and historically, justice includes an integration of personal character and social conditions, along with institutional integrity so that all classes and cultures are treated fairly. When King Solomon prayed for, “the wisdom to do justice” he was praying for fairness and against the perversion of justice by the powerful and wealthy.
All justice is social. This means that we must advocate for personal character and institutional reform, for systems that open access and opportunity because they are built on true equity (a level playing field), not just an abstract idea of equality. Education, economic opportunity, fair courts and policing, support for intact families, and an ethos of empowerment are all elements of justice leading to flourishing families and communities.
All justice is social. Equity is not a guarantee of equal outcomes, but it ensures opportunity to take risks and offer support when things do not work out. If we want to repair and redeem historic injustices, change in the human heart must unite with change in every institution. De jure (legal) fairness may be inscribed in laws, but de facto (real life) opportunities are still elusive for too many people.
All justice is social. The enemies of justice are always waiting to seize any moment to pervert and subvert fairness and opportunity. The lust for power and wealth can erode the best intentions. Arrogance blinds us to altruism that serves others. Winning at all costs undermines calls for integrity. High-powered lawyers get the rich off with minimal sentencing while the poor are served by overworked public defenders and sentenced severely. And for people of color, the unfairness is multiplied.
All justice is social. We can work for conditions that offer opportunity and create systems to support those in need. We can apply the law equitably to all and aim for restoration when possible. We can help cultivate entrepreneurial enterprise with ethics that care about people, planet, and profit.
May we ask the Lord for the wisdom to do justice in our day.