Justice—that’s all I ask—justice. So speaks the rich voice of Denzel Washington in an audio clip from one of his films. I use it as an example of an “epanalepsis” in my Public Speaking classes. It’s a rhetorical device which repeats a word or phrase, similar to a refrain.
Like an epanalepsis, I think the concept of justice itself resounds as a refrain in the human spirit. Most of us feel incensed when we see the “bad guys” getting away with wrongdoing and the innocent bearing the brunt of injustice. We were created to want the right thing to happen, and we feel everything from discomfort to downright outrage when justice is thwarted.
The Bible has a lot to say about justice. Isaiah tells us the God whose throne is established in love seeks justice in his judging. That tells me that the combination of love and judgment equals justice. Judgment without love does not result in justice; nor does love without judgment. Therein lies the rub.
The challenge for Christians today comes in integrating both factors. We have to fight the cultural pressure to cave when accused of being “judgmental” every time we take a moral stand. But every stand we take must originate from a “throne of love.” We judge because we care deeply, not just about the right prevailing, but because of the people involved.
Jesus presents the perfect illustration of judgment plus love in his confrontation with the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-31). He judged accurately that the man was trapped by his wealth. So he told him to go and give everything away to the poor. But before delivering such a dire directive, scripture says that Jesus looked at the young man and loved him (verse 21). He took the time to see him—really see him. He recognized that wealth had become a hindrance to the true treasure. So with compassion, Jesus challenged him to let his money go. Love-motivated judgment—justice—met the young man that day.
The rich young ruler walked away. Justice doesn’t always make people do the right thing. But it opens the door. As Christians it’s what we should be about.
Justice—it’s what we’re all looking for—justice.