What is the greatest injustice in the world?
It depends a lot on what you read, whom you talk to and the types of stories that grip your soul. If you watch a lot of romantic comedies, it might be ending up single. If you follow sports, perhaps it’s cheating or poor officiating. If you follow nonprofits on Twitter, it could be the lack of clean water in some regions of the world.
People are suffering everywhere, for all sorts of reasons. Oppression, displacement and other atrocities are tragic and unjust. Clearly, Scripture implores us to act and help those in need.
But the greatest injustice in the world has to do with our hearts more than anything else.
Webster’s defines justice as “the maintenance or administration of what is just.”
But what does “just” mean, you might ask. Webster’s answers that to be “just” is to be “faithful to an original.”
God’s “original” plan was to be in constant communion with man. He designed a world to work well based on that plan—a daily walk in the garden with your loving, heavenly Creator.
We lost that when Eve and Adam ate from the tree and created separation from the original relationship for all of us. Injustices have birthed other injustices, as man struggles through life in cultures where humans function without the slightest acknowledgment of our Creator and His first, best and original intention for how we would live.
If “just” describes something that is faithful to an original, then Christ-followers should recognize the most foundational work of justice to be the restoration of human relationship with God. Original sin, after all, is where we believe it all went wrong. So justice comes in the form of God’s Son, sent to earth to die for our sins, so that we can be reconciled with God through faith in Jesus.
Perhaps the grandest injustice, then—the idea that should ignite the most aggressive reaction within every Christian—is the fact that some people in this world are not in a personal relationship with God.
Because our relationship with God has suffered the widest divide between the original and current state, our highest calling in the work of fighting injustice is to restore this relationship.
While we are doing so, we will certainly feed and clothe and shelter and heal. But please do not mistake our enemy in this battle as culture or geography or even ignorance. There is an unseen enemy, whose plan, more than causing us physical harm, is to do everything in his power to keep us away from God.
The caution here for us is to avoid becoming overconfident or finding success in the fact that someone has been taken care of—given shelter, food or safety. That may be step one—and a very important and biblical aspect of restoration. But if God’s relentless pursuit of personal relationship is lost in the shuffle of physical care, then ultimate justice has not been served.
God provides, God heals and God cares. Those are aspects of a fathering relationship. But don’t mistake the cup for the contents it holds. It’s possible to be healed physically and not restored spiritually. And we are truly redeemed through faith in Jesus and a relationship with God.
In our advertising-soaked culture, we are constantly exposed to messages that confuse what we need for what we think we need. Too often, we Christ-followers join campaigns with good intentions that work toward relieving physical symptoms without addressing the spiritual disease. The symptoms of spiritual injustice are loneliness, despair and the end result of an eternity of separation from our Creator. This should break our hearts more than anything.
It’s often easier and more gratifying to meet a tangible need—to bridge someone to safety in a material crisis. And it’s absolutely critical to bring a person clean water or to help restore their freedom as part of carrying out God’s mission to those in need. But is there more to the story of justice?
Jesus offered the woman at the well “Living Water.” He listened and obeyed the Father and the Holy Spirit. He took care of this woman, administering soul justice, because His relationship with God was steering His actions. Jesus healed people’s felt needs too, but never stopped speaking of the Kingdom and His Father.
We can learn two things from Jesus’ example in administering true justice.
First, your most effective action, in all circumstances, is to pray. Talk to God and ask Him to show mercy on our brothers and sisters in need. There is biblical precedent for petitioning God as an active response to injustice. With Christ as our mediator, our heavenly advocate will move His hand on behalf of those who suffer oppression.
Secondly, as a Christian, our relationship with God should always be the most important thing. It should be the place we exert the most energy and focus our devotion. Jesus commanded us to seek His Kingdom first. The Kingdom begins in your heart. And if Christ’s reign over our lives is first in our hearts, it will guide all our actions accordingly.
Want to fight the world’s greatest injustice? Pray and seek the Kingdom. Then as you feed, clothe, heal and restore, this foundation of whole justice will overflow into everything you do.
If you seek the Kingdom first, those you serve will likely gladly accept physical care, and go beyond that to wonder about the source of the “Living Water” evident in your life and service.
When we are rooted in this Kingdom perspective, all of our service and social action will point to Jesus—for He is the one who can reconcile us to the Father, and restore our relationship with Him to its original.
For Christ followers, that is administering true justice.
Ben Skoda helps people communicate God’s story of justice with Venture Expeditions. Ben and his wife, Sarah, ride their bikes around Chicago, in constant search of a good brunch and Jesus’ redemption with their church family, MissioDei.