A while ago, I was having a conversation with an acquaintance from church about the concept of Justice.
I had been describing the ways that we see working toward social justice within our community as an essential part of living out the Gospel. He, on the other hand, was fully in support of “justice” as a concept, but thought working for social justice was a harmful distraction for Christians.
This left me speechless. Caught up in the mix of not wanting to offend, wanting to clearly articulate myself, and being surprised by his comment, I was at a loss for words.
Is there any justice that isn’t social?
Justice, at its core, is about setting things right between people. It isn’t abstract, it isn’t arbitrary, it isn’t solitary.
Justice is about relationship, a social construct. In Christian theology, when we are justified before God, the restoration of our relationship with the Holy is a social event.
When neighbours come into conflict, someone steps in to act as a mediator, creating justice through restoring the neighbours’ relationship and restoring social harmony.
When a crime is committed, the criminal is punished so that (in theory) they can pay their debt to the victims and to society, restoring balance—justice in a social context.
When groups of people are victimised, oppressed, or taken advantage of by corporations, institutions, or governments, justice comes about on a social level by removing the oppressor’s unjust power and restoring the oppressed to an equal footing in society.
All justice is social justice. Justice outside of society, outside of community, outside of relationship, doesn’t exist. Justice literally has no meaning unless it is social.
As Christians, we work for social justice to live out the love, compassion, and justice that comes with the Kingdom of God. As citizens of the world, we work for social justice because we know that either we all flourish together and in partnership, or we as a society eventually self-destruct through violence and corruption. As people simply desiring to lead good, meaningful lives, we work for social justice because turning a blind eye to those who are hurting—whether individuals or communities—makes us terrible heartless people.
All justice is social justice; there is no justice unless it is social.