In the Form of Ordination for Deacons it says "In Christ's name the deacons relieve victims of injustice". If you asked around most people would say they know what injustice is. Pressed for an example you may hear things like "injustice is people starving", "injustice is people without a home", "injustice is people being poor". Are they wrong? No, I don't think so. But hearing answers like that always makes me wonder - do we, as Christians, tend toward thinking that injustice is the lack of material wealth or provision?
Sometimes injustice is simply defined as a "lack of justice". Justice itself is a concept we don't always fully understand. Diaconal Ministries of Canada (DMC) defines biblical justice as "the heart of who God is and what God does. It is known, not primarily through philosophical speculation, but through observing God’s actions to liberate the oppressed, and through heeding God’s word in the Law and the Prophets to protect and care for the weak." DMC goes on to say that justice is all about relationships. And that justice "requires us to seek to change those societal root causes in such a way that the individual is again able to live out his or her God-given calling within a community."
This concept about justice is supported by the book When Helping Hurts, which explores what poverty is and how we can work to alleviate it, without hurting the poor. In the early pages Corbett & Fikkert define poverty as "the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings". Acknowledging that poverty exists when one of our foundational relationships (with God, self, community or creation) experiences brokeness we will quickly realize that each and every one of us knows poverty in a real sense in our own lives - whether that be a poverty of spiritual intimacy, a poverty of being, a poverty of community or a poverty of stewardship.
As a deacon team we are called to lead our congregations in fighting for justice. This can be a daunting task. Perhaps you look around your congregation or community and wonder where to begin because you see injustice everywhere. Maybe you are at the opposite end of the spectrum and you look around and don't see injustice. (DMC has identified 8 vulnerable people groups, which may help you see places of injustice). Regardless of where you are at it's possible that the idea of pressing on and fighting for justice - for reconciliation - for right relationships makes you feel weary. Perhaps you even find yourself asking that question "is justice even worth it?".
If that's where you are let me say just this: YES. Fighting for justice is worth it. We need to remember that this isn't some US and THEM battle we're fighting. This is an US battle. To live and work for justice is to build relationships - and that will take time - but it is time for the kingdom, and well worth it because when you know those with whom or for whom you are fighting it stops being US and THEM - there is no separation - and you will come to discover that "is it worth it" isn't even a question you ask because the answer is obvious.
A few months ago a friend of mine sent me the link to a 2 minute video called "Is Justice Worth It" which I found quite powerful. With eloquence and passion it answers the question it poses. (And obviously I was impacted enough to borrowed little bits from it for this blog).
Justice will require effort - but it is always worth it. NEVER cease doing good.
How are you (or your deacon team) living out justice in your community?