three things about one word: justice

kathyescobar healing, incarnational, injustice, spiritual formation 14 Comments

justice is what love looks like in public

is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: 

to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

is it not to share your food with the hungry and

to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—

when you see the naked, to clothe them, 

and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

then your light will break forth like the dawn, 

and your healing will quickly appear;

then your righteousness will go before you,

 and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

then you will call, and the Lord will answer; 

you will cry for help, and he will say: here am I.

if you do away with the yoke of oppression, 

with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry 

and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

then your light will rise in the darkness, 

and your night will become like the noonday.

the Lord will guide you always; 

he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land 

and will strengthen your frame.

you will be like a well-watered garden, 

like a spring whose waters never fail.

your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and

will raise up the age-old foundations;

you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, 

Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”

–  isaiah 58:6-12


i definitely am out of any kind of blogging rhythm these days and am hoping to find my way back. but fall in colorado is always amazing and i’ve got a lot going on here between kids football games & refuge transitions & the realities of life.  i had a really fun time last week hanging out in kansas city with the forge network folks and sharing about to for and with and then facilitating two down we go  workshops.  it reminded me of how much i like that crazy little book!  it was also really fun to have conversations with people deeply dedicated to creating little pockets of love & pursuing justice  in their contexts.  i could go on and on why i think we should make advocates, not buildings and why as christ-followers, we have a big responsibility to participate in shifting unjustice systems. but instead of rambling, i thought i’d come back to an ongoing series i have here called “three things about one word.”  i’ve written three things about church, power, and serving so far.

 justice is a good one to tackle this week.

so here goes, here are three things about justice that are swirling around in my head today:

1. the world is bent toward injustice for the oppressed, weak, vulnerable and marginalized. this is not new information for anyone, but it’s so important to remember it.  those with privilege must respect the power we have and recognize that our responsibility is to use the power we have to empower those on the underside of justice. the oppressed, weak, vulnerable, and marginalized will not instantly be allowed to sit at tables and help influence decisions.  it will be up to those of us who have power to make space, to advocate, to raise awareness, to risk our own skin, and participate in small and big ways in tipping things a better direction.

2. justice is about equality.  equality and justice go hand and hand.  we have created levels of value in people and no matter how much we might try to say “everyone’s made in the image of God’ we have to look at the realities of the systems we have built that put one above the other.  this is why working so hard for equality matters! the little tastes of breaking down the walls between us and them between rich & poor, struggling & doing-pretty-well-at-the-moment, men & women, educated & uneducated, gay & straight, black and white, immigrant & resident, give us a glimpse of heaven.

3.  justice won’t drop out of the sky – i love isaiah 58 and some of the action words that are there–loose chains, untie yokes, set people free, share food, provide shelter, clothe people.  all of these are acts of justice, and the beautiful part is that we don’t all need skills and training and education and theological know-how to do some of these things.  we can all participate in some small or big way in cultivating justice here on earth by engaging with those on the underside of justice, making wrongs right, and playing some small part in balancing imbalanced power systems. the kingdom won’t drop out of the sky; we have been entrusted & fueled by God to participate in creating it.

there’s so much more to say about pursuing justice, but the number one thing that gets in the way for a lot of us is the feeling that there’s nothing we can do. that the powers that be and the systems that are jacked up are too much to work against so our small efforts won’t matter. i feel that all the time, too, but it’s so important to remember–every little bit of change to make wrongs right makes a difference.

every little bit of hope that gets extended makes a difference.

every little bit of dignity that’s restored makes a difference.

every time an unjust system is required to do the right thing, it makes a difference. 

every time the power differentials between people are diffused, it makes a difference.

every time a voice is used that once was silenced, it makes a difference.

every time a person’s value is acknowledged, it makes a difference.

it’s bringing some little taste of heaven to earth, and what Jesus said was possible comes to life.

in those moments, broken walls are repaired, damaged homes are restored, hearts experience healing, and God’s image shines in all kinds of lovely and mysterious ways.

that’s justice.

it’s so hard to only say three things; what would you add?


a few quick other things:

  • if you live in denver, the faith & justice conference is next month; it’s a pretty amazing gathering of people who care about this, plus it’s inexpensive and possible for everyone to attend.  there’s going to be some really great dignified dialogue there. all of the details here:
  • also, i was off for september’s down we go column on sheloves magazine, but back for october. my post on tuesday is called creating safety and is about cultivating safe spaces in community.