The tragic fire of Grenfell Tower, in the heart of London, has moved people of all nationalities, walks of life, faiths and pay grades. A cry has gone out for justice.
But what justice can be sought? As Christians, when we pray in response to this fatal fire and other similar events, what justice can we ask for?
I found myself pondering this question as I wrestled with my own response to the news, which, if I’m honest, was one of anger as well as sadness. Wanting to pray more effectively, with better understanding and more in alignment with God’s will, I delved back into some old notes and teachings I have heard over the years on Biblical justice. Here’s what I found…
C.S. Lewis said this about a period of time when he questioned God’s reality: ‘My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?’
We need God, His nature and character, to be the starting place for our definition of justice. Otherwise, justice tends to be watered down to ‘fair’; or what we could be looking for something more like ‘judgement’ or ‘retribution’. This is human nature. When tragedy strikes, we need someone to blame, someone to make pay.
But when we define justice according to the One who is just, the definition broadens, deepens.
Justice can be God’s action in and through us to restore human relationships with Him, others and creation, in accordance with His will – the way He intended things to be.
In Scripture, one of the main words for justice puts the emphasis not on ‘retribution’ (punishment) or ‘distribution’ (fair shares for all), but rather on what human living should be like. When translated into English, it can also mean ‘righteousness’ – living a just life.
The Bible time and again pairs justice with mercy. They’re not separate but are bound together by a single word which is best rendered as “justice tempered by compassion”.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:6-7)
Throughout Scripture God’s justice is ultimately about restoration.
As I read through my notes, hope stirred my heart and I wondered, ‘What if we as God’s people began to pray for and live out this kind of justice daily?
What if, in this present national climate of tension and raw emotion, we became models of justice, living right, and overflowing with mercy towards all? What if we gave ourselves to God’s call to “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly” in the midst of the brokenness around us, praying for His “justice to roll down like a river”? What could happen?’ Isaiah paints one possibility…
‘If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places— firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community liveable again.’ Isaiah 58:9-12 (The MSG)
Crystal Cryer originally hails from Oregon, the best state in the US, but now claims Scotland as home. She is the National Coordinator for 24-7 Prayer Scotland and loves being part of the wild, contagious and life-transforming movement that is 24-7 Prayer . She is also part of the Prayer Spaces in Schools Scotland team as well as the Central Church family in Edinburgh, where she is based. Crystal loves hospitality, cooking, talking about prayer, the history of Celtic Christianity, all things Nature, exploring new places and cultures, conversations over coffee (or a glass of red wine), reading and all things creative.