Justice Doesn’t Need a Qualifier

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Ahmaud Arbury. George Floyd. Two men who died unjustly.

When I watched the graphic videos, I was left with a raw speechlessness. And even rawer questions. Why chase a young man ruthlessly with guns? Why ignore an older man’s pleas for air? Whatever happened to genuine conversation without assumptions? Whatever happened to compassion even in the middle of conflict?

As my mind scrolled through possible answers, some were swept away as rationalizations. Others faded as excuses. Still more were exposed as lies.

But what held firm was the conviction, grounded in God’s Word, that both were horrific injustices. Even a quick mental review of biblical justice left me knowing that what I saw was exactly that—unjust. Period.

“Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked.” (Ex. 23:7)

God’s command to Israel at that time reflects his heart for all time. He’s clear—inventing “reasons” to take action against those who are innocent is perversion. Wickedness. Wrong. For our benefit, Scripture details, in both covenants, the just ways God wants all people treated. Yes, when they are wronged, when they do wrong; when they are right, when they do right. The poor. The rich. The in-between. The citizen. The sojourner. The colored, regardless of our shade or hue. Truly, the last three words of America’s Pledge of Allegiance are quite biblical —“justice for all.”  

Let me be even more pointed. The call to treat all people justly doesn’t disappear just because you think a crime has been committed. Even when one has, God’s ordained authorities must protect and punish justly (Romans 13), not indiscriminately or inconsistently (Prov. 11:11; 20:10). Justice isn’t justice just because it’s preceded by vigilante. Or any other qualifier for that matter.

How sad that some see these situations (i.e., Arbury and Floyd) as exceptions, claiming this isn’t unjust. But on the contrary! Unjust exceptions are precisely what occur when qualifiers are attached. Unnecessary qualifiers, I might add. “He was black.” “He was running from the scene.” “He looked suspicious.”  “He was resisting.”

Here’s more. “It’s just a fetus.” “They’re too old to have any quality of life.” Qualifiers like color, conditions, or class don’t negate or dismiss what happens in real time and space: An injustice occurs to another human being, a person indelibly stamped with God’s image. Marred by sin, yes. But the imago dei isn’t erased. So justice is in order. For all people. At all times.

Make no mistake—Justice doesn’t need qualified. It should be the same regardless of race, economics, life stage, religion, or a host of any other man-made labels. It should be expected. Pursued. Cried out for. And it should be applied evenly. Fairly. Truly, it should be blind. It appears, however, we’re leaving out the ‘l’ and hoping we can “bind” justice, using it as we see fit based on our definitions, definitions that are twisted due to qualifiers.     

Which is precisely why the church—her leaders especially—must not shy away from calling out injustice, as well as the qualifiers that wrongfully provide for its cover. Count me in as one who will do exactly that, whether it be to the ears of the abortionist, the racist, or the euthanasist. Those are all examples of qualifiers that have perverted justice. Leaders must commit to the courage to stand and speak against those things.

Because people matter. Justice matters. Let’s work for both without qualification or reservation.

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5 Comments on “Justice Doesn’t Need a Qualifier”

  1. You said it all, Pastor Todd.
    Seeing people of colors especially the black community being mad treated and killed daily makes me feel unsafe as an African Immigrant.
    The churches need to rise up interce for this great nation

  2. This is indeed injustice toward African Blacks. But injustice also has been shown to other races. As a white person I personally had this exposure to injustice when my family moved from Kansas to Texas in 1972. My sister was in 7th grade. She always pushed to do her best, and could run faster than the black girls. The outcome resulted in my sister being beat up by the black girls. The school would not resolve this problem. Enough said.

  3. Hi Pastor Todd,
    Thank you for speaking out on this issue. It’s very comforting as a person of color to hear my pastor advocate that justice be done. (I have read your recent post from June 3; I will not be talking about that one here.)

    I guess I don’t really know how to say this in a way that doesn’t come across as accusatory, but please know that I mean this in genuine curiosity and willingness to hear your opinion.

    Here it is: I’m wondering why this blog post doesn’t explicitly mention racism. Racism IS the specific type of injustice at play here. Two things come to mind when I read this article:
    1. This post feels (this is just my opinion) like it is written for a white audience, particularly because it seems to skirt the issue of racism.
    2. This post feels like it has an underlying All Lives Matter rhetoric to it, or otherwise an “All Justices Matter” rhetoric.

    When we speak of sexual immorality in the American Evangelical church, we often point out specifically the sin of, say, homosexuality, or divorce. There are a myriad of sexual sins, but we have enumerated them in the past, or at least as long as I’ve been to FFC, I have heard these explicitly condemned (in a loving manner of course.)

    As a POC myself, I am somewhat hurt that we Midwestern Evangelical Christians don’t explicitly condemn racism—instead, it seems easier to group it in with all injustice—but what a very broad umbrella! Even broader than just the subset of sins labeled “sexually immoral.”

    Additionally, I personally feel that mentioning abortion and euthanasia was potentially unnecessary. This is the part that makes me feel like this post has an “All Lives Matter” rhetoric. Of course that is true, but is it so wrong to take time to specifically condemn racism? Something Paul and Jesus have been very clear about? And can we do so without also listing other injustices in the same breath? These, once again, are just my personal opinion.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Hope to hear back from you. I am very grateful for FFC in my life.

    God bless,
    AW

    1. Amy—Right off the bat let me say thanks, and point taken! 🙂 Frankly, I wasn’t intentionally avoiding the word racism at all. I know you’ll have to trust me on that, but it is the truth. Looking back, I probably was just assuming it was an obvious realization. But your email reminded me of something I know but didn’t implement — don’t assume. Thanks for the kind push to not assume.

      For the record, I’ve been clear in the pulpit that racism is “devilish and divisive” — not the result of God. And not the actions of those who know how God loves us.

      We’ll have to agree to disagree on the use of abortion and euthanasia in my post, alright? 🙂 Here’s what we don’t disagree on — your post was helpful to me as a writer, speaker, and pastor. Thanks for your graciousness and kindness in the way you expressed it.

  4. Hi Pastor Todd,
    Thank you for speaking out on this issue. It’s very comforting as a person of color to hear my pastor advocate that justice be done. (I have read your recent post from June 3; I will not be talking about that one here.)

    I guess I don’t really know how to say this in a way that doesn’t come across as accusatory, but please know that I mean this in genuine curiosity and willingness to hear your opinion.

    Here it is: I’m wondering why this blog post doesn’t explicitly mention racism. Racism IS the specific type of injustice at play here. Two things come to mind when I read this article:
    1. This post feels (this is just my opinion) like it is written for a white audience, particularly because it seems to skirt the issue of racism.
    2. This post feels like it has an underlying All Lives Matter rhetoric to it, or otherwise an “All Justices Matter” rhetoric.

    When we speak of sexual immorality in the American Evangelical church, we often point out specifically the sin of, say, homosexuality, or divorce. There are a myriad of sexual sins, but we have enumerated them in the past, or at least as long as I’ve been to FFC, I have heard these explicitly condemned (in a loving manner of course.)

    As a POC myself, I am somewhat hurt that we don’t explicitly condemn racism—instead, it seems easier to group it in with all injustice—what a very broad umbrella! Even broader than just the subset of sins labeled “sexually immoral.”

    Additionally, I personally feel that mentioning abortion and euthanasia was potentially unnecessary. This is the part that makes me feel like this post has an “All Lives Matter” rhetoric. Of course that is true, but is it so wrong to take time to specifically condemn racism? Something Paul and Jesus have been very clear about? And to do so without also listing other injustices in the same breath? These, once again, are just my personal opinion.

    Thank you for reading this. Hope to hear from you soon. I’m very grateful for all that FFC in my life.

    God bless,
    AW

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