“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
One way we at SCC do justice and love kindness is through our participation in Covenant World Relief. For more than 60 years, CWR has been the Evangelical Covenant Church’s response to human suffering and injustice in the world. CWR works through local partners around the world to reduce human suffering for the most vulnerable people and support healthy communities. CWR states that “we partner with God in God’s transforming mission. We join God in loving, serving, and working together with the poor, the powerless, and the marginalized.”
This gave me pause to consider again what “doing justice” really is. We see in the Micah passage and throughout the scriptures that justice and mercy are linked. The term for “mercy” in Hebrew is chesedh, or God’s unconditional grace and compassion. The word for “justice” is misphat. Misphat is about action, chesedh is more about the attitude or heart. So to walk with God we do justice out of mercy.. Zechariah 7:9-10 says, “This is what the Lord Almighty says; administer true justice, show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppressed the widow or the fatherless, the immigrant or the poor.” Both justice and mercy reflect the character of God.
We might think of “doing justice” in three layers, that of relief, development and social reform. Relief is direct aid. It is the Good Samaritan bandaging the victim. Relief is flying in water after an earthquake. Development is the next step, it is giving to these persons, family or community what they need to regain self-sufficiency, to move beyond dependency. It is giving a family a cow, or equipping someone with a trade and a skill, or better forms of agriculture. For most evangelicals, these two forms of doing justice are viewed as good, and great, and essential.
The third level, that of social reform, is admittedly harder. It seeks to change the conditions and social structures that aggravate or cause that dependency. Imagine a sequel to the Good Samaritan. Every time he makes that trip, there are more bodies on the road. Relief, he cared for the one man. Development, he might start an Urgent Care unit for all these victims. Social Reform, he would figure out why this was happening and seek to change it. This is called “the upstream strategy”; while some continue immediate assistance to those in need, others go upstream to figure out why so many are being pushed in and prevent it.
How do we at SCC “do justice”? We will continue to partner with Covenant World Relief, as well as other denominationally lead initiatives addressing injustices. In our own community, we can also partner with reputable organizations. While we may disagree on root causes or best methods to address the injustice, may we agree to the Biblical mandate to “do justice”. May we willingly join God in seeking justice for the poor, the powerless and the marginalized.