“To “do justice” means to render to each what each is due. Justice involves harmony, flourishing, and fairness, and it is based on the image of God in every person—the Imago Dei—that grants all people inalienable dignity and infinite worth.” Eugene Cho
The book of the prophet Amos was written while the kingdom of Israel had become a prosperous nation under King Jeroboam II. They were experiencing peace as a nation, great social prestige and had achieved military might. But the poor suffered like dogs, the foreigners experienced oppression and the widows and orphans died unattended.
Does that ring any bells?
Well, watch out!
Here comes the prophet.
Like alcohol to a wound, the seer spoke the words of God, to the people of God, for the sake of God.
I can't stand your religious meetings.
I'm fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals.
I'm sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making.
I've had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
That's what I want. That's all I want.
Can you hear God's intensity and passion?
I do. And I need more of that kind of passion (and commitment) to real justice.
You see, most of us can "handle" injustice.
We see it on the news, cringe a little, maybe #thoughtsandprayers and then we let it pass. We’re really good at pretending like we care about something that is unfair (and social media has given us a platform to be masters of it). We see racism, we tweet about it. We see war, we blog about it. We see hunger, we share the WorldVision.com website without actually signing up for a sponsorship.
And I know that social media is a good first step to awareness and action, but don’t let it deceive you into feeling righteous.
That’s why God highlights the real problem for us... justice.
Because justice demands that we do something.
And that’s precisely what He wants; flowing like an ever-flowing stream.
Now, there are two aspects of justice in the Bible that are distinctly defined.
The first is called Punitive Justice. It works likes this; an eye for an eye i.e what you took from me, I can take from you. It’s fair and just enough, and at a core level we all filter life through it. Also, most world governments, employee handbooks and courses on parenting are rule by it.
You kill, you get killed.
You rob, you pay back with cash, time or work.
You are unfaithful to your marriage vows, you lose half of what you own.
This punishment driven justice creates a sense of fear, of analyzing consequences and making decisions based on what will happen to the individual if found guilty. My momma used to called it, The Fear of the Lord.
But there’s another aspect of justice that is at the heart of more than half of the verses where is says the words, “righteousness” or “justice”.
It’s precisely what God is talking about in Amos 5.
It’s called Restorative Justice.
And this is the kind of fairness that sees all, both the abuser and the abused, as worthy of mercy.
Multiple times a year, I get to witness this in all its splendor. Our church family had connected with a ministry called Proverbs 22:6. Their sole purpose is to bring fathers (who are in prison) together with their children (who are the most likely to go to prison next). In 2016 we had two events inside of Central Prison in downtown Raleigh. The first event we did was called, “Forgive Me Dear.” We chaperone 15 kids into a maxim security facility so they could spend a day with their fathers. Some of the kids had never even met their fathers before. Some had only seen them through a glass and spoken to them through dirty prison phones. And most had never-ever been hugged by their dad.
Volunteers from our church had spent months before the day preparing the fathers on how to connect with their little ones. They were teaching them how to ask for forgiveness, how to hold her children's hands and how to look into their eyes while they spoke to them. There was even some basic training in foot washing.
The reason we brought these kids through five layers of security and inspection was for the deepest moment of reconciliation. And that's precisely what we did. We spent more than six hours creating space so that children between the ages of 2 and 15 could be loved by their convicted parent. The prison ward became the temple of the holiest God, and in his presence, rivers of justice flowed.
What Proverbs 22:6 is doing is producing fruit that will last for generations to come. Children whose parents are in prison are three times more likely to end up in prison themselves. The motivation for these gatherings is to destroy that trend.
Cyril Prabuh, who started and leads Proverbs 22:6, is now funded to give full university scholarships to many of the kids that finish the program. Even Sketchers Shoes donated thousands of sneakers so that at the end of the first encounter, right after the dad is drying the toes of his darling son or daughter, they get to literally put new shoes on their feet to signify that they now heading in a different direction. Proverbs 22:6 is doing this all over the United States and they’ve been so incredibly successful that prisons where they started in South Carolina are reporting significant deduction of crime and reentry!
This is restorative justice, were both the oppressor and the oppressed (the father who committed the crime and the innocent children who had nothing to do with it) get to walk in the redemption of Christ. This is the stream that God is thirsty for.
When the Bible talks about justice I used to imagine a white old man with a white long beard in a white big throne, angry and ready to destroy. A Zeus-type figure who’s mighty flashes would consume all who broke the law.
The magnificent news for me and you, for those kids and those dads, is that the Righteous Father is exactly like his Humble Son. And if we have seen the Son, then we have seen the Father.
He’s the Son who stopped the execution of the adulterous lady in John 8. And he did it because that's what he saw the “white old man on the throne” doing. He did it because the Godhead is more interested in restoring humanity than punishing humans. He did it because the Holy Spirit empowered him to preach good news to the poor. To heal the broken hearted. To set at liberty those who are captive. To open the eyes of the blind. And to declare the year of the Lord’s favor.
This is his mission statement.
Confirmed and approved.
Vision casting done!
Jesus, borrowing the words of the prophet Isaiah, clearly articulated his assignment in Luke 4. This was the reason the Holy Dove descend on him. It was not to impress us with flashy miracles or uppity sermons. The Holy Ghost came upon the Holy Son to empower him with this holy purpose.
I would like to invite you to make this your own. According to Jesus, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”67 That means, that we have permission, right here in Drop The Stones, to make his mission statement, our own.
Say it out loud, over yourself, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
I agree with Jesus.
And I agree with you.