Love & Justice | Hand & Glove
By Gena Thomas
Day 1 of 4: The Relationship between Love & Justice
“This is what the LORD Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’”
Zechariah 7:9-10 (NIV)
What is justice? What does God mean when he refers to justice in one part of the verse and mercy and compassion in another? How are these themes connected?
The two Hebrew words found in the Old Testament for justice are mishpat and tzedakah. Mishpat means giving others what they are due. Tzedakah means a life of right relationship. So imagine I gave you a folder with a lifetime of information on 25-year-old Sam and another folder with the information about 25-year-old Chris. One of these 25-year-olds will receive a scholarship, and the other will go to jail. You must decide who receives which outcome, but you are not allowed to open up the folders. What do you decide to do?
There can be no justice in this scenario because there is no relationship. Without knowing anything about other human beings, without any relationship with them, we cannot begin to know what is properly due to them. When we distance ourselves immensely from others we disagree with, relationship has been taken away. (I am not referring to an abusive or toxic relationship here.)
Oftentimes we no longer see the other as human as we see ourselves. We take away tzedakah. It’s so easy to distance ourselves from others and pretend as though we are “doing justice” like Micah 6:8 calls us to, but the reality is that we cannot do justice without relationship.
Here’s where love comes in. When we, without love, decide what another human being is due, we dehumanize that person. We cannot administer true justice without first recognizing the love that is due to others based on their divine imprint—the Imago Dei—that Genesis 1:26 so clearly gives every human being.
In today’s ever-polarizing world, we are a people called to love others because God first loved us. We are a people called to administer true justice to the people on the other side of the Twitter beef, the other side of the computer screen, the other side of the political aisle, the other side of our country’s border. We cannot do that, we cannot do justice if we are not in relationship with the other. And we cannot administer justice if we cannot first administer love.
God of Justice,
Give us fresh knowledge of our own divine imprint. Remind us that you first loved us with an everlasting love. Be with us as we cross aisles and borders and murky social media waters. Help us to see your reflection in the other person’s countenance. Give us eyes to see what our selfishness blocks us from seeing. Make us aware of the subtle ways we dehumanize each other and give us the boldness to confess and to love. May we experience justice as a reflection of your true character. In the name of Jesus, Amen.