Monday, December 29, 2014

Ferguson, New York City, and Justice

One of the most hated words in civilization today is injustice, and rightfully so. When this nation’s founding fathers declared that this should be a nation of “liberty and justice for all”, they weren’t just tossing out random ideals that seemed good for our nation to have. They were tapping in to the very fabric of every person in existence. The hunger for justice is woven into each of us from birth. No one has to explain to a two-year old why it’s unjust for someone to steal the toy they are playing with. They instinctively know that something is wrong the second the teddy bear is snatched from their hands. We all crave justice and we all rebel against injustice, or at the very least we rebel against the injustice that affects us. The big question facing this generation, a question raised by the events in Ferguson, MO and by the recent police and civilian deaths in New York City is simply: how do we effectively fight for justice in our homes, communities, and world? Here are a couple of thoughts:

Be Driven By Justice Not Emotion

If you’ve ever been around a playground full of kids you know that eventually some version of the game Tag will break out. The kids run from each other, turning left, then right, then back left again. They duck and spin, jump to the side, lean forward and back, all in an attempt to avoid their pursuer. At the end of their running, they are normally not very far from where they began. The only purpose of their running was to avoid their pursuer. Being driven by emotion works the same way.

When we are driven by emotion we often have no real direction or purpose other than to act on the intense emotion we feel, to vent it. Emotion isn’t bad, in fact, it’s very good. We should feel strong emotion when we encounter injustice in our world, but that emotion should not control our actions. Our emotion must always serve intentional and deliberate plans to battle injustice. Emotions make great servants, but lousy leaders, or to put it another way, emotions can fuel our car, but should never be allowed to drive it.  We’ve seen our share of protests this year, and they can often be a catalyst to change. As a Protestant, my entire religious heritage is packed full of protests that led to change. Any actions, however (protests included), that are blindly driven by our emotions (normally outrage) are ineffective and normally create more injustice than they alleviate. Take for example, some of the protesters in Ferguson, MO who in their outrage trashed and destroyed small markets and stores in the town. Many of the businesses were owned and run by people who were simply working hard to carve out a life for them and their families, none of those who lost their livelihood had caused any of the injustice of the previous weeks. The attacks on them were incredibly unjust. What is even more baffling and sad is that the damage was inflicted in the name of battling injustice. Undirected emotional outbursts do not lead to justice.

Injustice is an insidious creature. If we are not careful we ourselves can become unjust in our attempts to battle it, and at that point we add to the problem rather than offer a solution. We must seek justice not just for our own emotional satisfaction, but for the good of the people around us. It’s pointless to cry out for justice, if you aren’t willing to care for your neighbor next door. Marching for justice is pointless if your children feel ignored and unloved at home.  The fight for justice must be a proactive marathon, not a reactive sprint that dies out when the emotion dies down. Our fight for justice begins with our passion for the welfare of the people all around us each day at work and home. At its best the battle for justice is a passion that seeks to mirror God’s very own passion for us. Although we will fall short often, our commitment to love people well will keep our mission for justice on the right track. I prayer for greater justice in our world in the coming year, and I pray that you and I might be a part of bringing it to life. 

Photo Courtesy of Clayton, Mackenzie, Lauren, Morgan, and Bailey

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