God is a God of justice and he calls us to reflect this in our discipleship. Put simply, as disciples of Jesus, we are called to be a people of justice.
We often fail to recognise this. When I was writing my book on discipleship, I set out to expound Micah 6.8. The challenge this verse gives would form a central chapter of the book. This is the challenge to ‘act justly’, ‘love mercy’ and ‘walk humbly’ with our God. I turned eagerly to commentaries for help in getting to the heart of the well-known text, but I was disappointed. The way the verse was interpreted and then applied was often limited and ‘pietistic’. I read we are to pay our taxes, be honest when filling in expenses claims, and so on. Indeed we are, but the Hebrew word miṣpat which we translate as ‘justice’ is both broad and deep. Crucially, it applies to the big issues of society and it insists on the rights of others. But maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised at the failure to apply God’s word to big and challenging issues. For often I fail to do this myself.
So the Bible gives us a ringing call to be people of justice and ‘equity’ (compare Psalm 99.4). But what does this mean in practice? Specifically, what does this mean following the appalling, racist murder of George Floyd? The filming of the sickening killing brought it to the world’s attention. But such events are not rare, neither are they confined to the United States. Racism is a deep-rooted problem. It is a deep-rooted problem here in the UK.
How should we respond? For those of us who are not black, it should involve us listening carefully to black voices. I include a link below to just one powerful contribution. I urge you to take the time to engage with it.
And then we need to be consistently anti-racist. It is not enough to say, ‘I’m not racist’. We are to actively oppose racism. Call it out. The Bible says we are to ‘act justly’. Do something. Speak. Challenge. Recognise the reality of white privilege and the continuing effects of past injustice, especially the unspeakable evil of slavery. In the 1960s Martin Luther King became ‘gravely disappointed’ with many ‘white moderates’. ‘Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will’, he declared. He found many were more concerned with order than with justice and preferred ‘a negative peace, which is the absence of tension, to a positive peace, which is the presence of justice.’ Justice – that word again. Are we going to be people who act justly? Are we going to live as disciples of Jesus?