I’ve been thinking a lot about justice lately.
In the NIV translation, Amos 5:24 reads, “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.”
It’s a powerful, uplifting verse in the middle of very disturbing passage. In the verses immediately before and after, God, is telling His people that He hates their religious feasts, will have no regard for their offerings, and will not listen to their songs.
Then comes verse 24, where God says that instead of feasts, offerings, and songs, He wants JUSTICE from his people, justice that rolls on and on like a river, like a never-failing stream. What an image!
The WordPlayers produced WALK, DON’T RIDE earlier this year, which featured part of Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech. In that speech, dreaming of justice for all, he paraphrased Amos 5:24.
As I write this, the media has been inundating us with the Trayvon Martin story, in which so many are crying out for justice after the killing (was it murder?) of that 17 year-old young man. I have a 17 year-old son. Dwelling on the possibility of his being killed is too much for me. What would I consider justice after that?
We are in an election year. Many people are looking to politicians to lead us to whatever is their definition of social justice in the areas of health care, housing, taxes, and foreign policy. It’s confusing.
Soon, The WordPlayers begin rehearsals for RAGTIME. It’s the regional premier of the epic musical that depicts a time a century ago when immigrants looked to the United States of America for justice.
Most of them found horrific working conditions and squalid tenements, even while the likes of J.P. Morgan and Henry Ford accumulated unimaginable wealth. It was a time that was still more than 50 years away from the civil rights victories forged by Dr. King and others. In RAGTIME, the Harlem chorus sings:
“There’s a day of hope
May I live to see….
It’s a day of peace,
A day of pride,
A day of justice
We have been denied…
Let the new day dawn,
Oh, Lord, I pray.”
The tragic hero of RAGTIME, Coalhouse Walker, Jr., encourages his friends with a song which echoes Amos 5:24:
“Your sword can be a sermon
Or the power of a pen.
Teach every child to raise his voice
And then, my brothers, then
Will justice be demanded
By ten million righteous men.”
So, yes, I’ve been thinking a lot about justice. It’s elusive and confusing in our world. Can justice be attained by the use of force? By the power of the pen? By a sermon? By elections? Politicians? Theatre?!?!?
During this Holy Week, I’m dreadfully confused even by God’s justice. How could he possibly love us so much that, in wanting to reconcile sinners to Himself, he was willing to sacrifice Jesus, His sinless Son, to an excruciating death on the cross? Where’s the justice in that? I don’t know, but I’m humbled and awed by His amazing love.