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LOVE IS JUSTICE PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jim Jordal   
Thursday, 11 December 2014

LOVE IS JUSTICE

By Jim Jordal

 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not give false testimony," "You shall not covet," and whatever other commandments there are, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."  Love doesn't harm a neighbor. Love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.                                                                                                  Romans 13:8-10, WEB

History has it that the great Jewish rabbi Hillel who lived around the time of Christ once was asked by a student to explain the Torah, or Jewish law (also found in the first five books of the Bible). He replied: “What is hateful to thee, do not do to your fellowman. That is the whole law; the rest is but commentary.”

In the above passage from Romans, the apostle Paul says essentially the same thing--that love and respect for the rights of others is the fulfilling of the law. All other prohibitions under the law are merely commentary or explanation, and thus subordinate to the ultimate law of love. 

If we define justice as application of love in human relations and society, then we see that love is justice in all human aspects---personal, family, community, nations, and the entire earth. Love as justice also includes the political, economic, social, religious, ecological, and other issues over which we struggle so mightily today.

Our problem seems to be that we talk continuously of love but practice it only for our families, relatives, and some close neighbors. But it too often fails to reach out to those different from us in color, social class, wealth, and other behavior.

How many times have you heard the poor condemned for their own poverty with the comment, “Well, if they weren’t so lazy, stupid, lawless, etc. they wouldn’t be poor.” Comments like these reveal our ignorance about true economic conditions in the U.S. and also expose our utter contempt for many of the vulnerable among us as well as our willingness to hurl verbal abuse at them. This is neither love nor justice!

Why do we need so many laws, rules, decisions, courts, and prisons around us? Why do we among other democracies have far and away the highest percentage of our population under incarceration? And why do crimes and other anti-social behaviors seem to make up the bulk of our news broadcasts today?

Could it be our failure to love as the Bible teaches? Biblical love in the social sense doesn’t mean passive acceptance of any and all behavior. It doesn’t mean speaking of justice but never doing it. And it doesn’t mean accepting God’s freely given and totally unearned grace while sitting in our favorite pews regurgitating the platitudes about how good God is, but having no intent to change anything in our personal lives or in our culture in the direction of truth, mercy, and justice, as God orders.

If we really loved the destitute of society we would do something about the social conditions, political malfeasance, and economic policy failures that make them poor and vulnerable. In the absence of action, it’s just words, and that’s what a lot of the demonstrations and violence are all about. It’s the continual promises of more jobs and coupled with the obvious failure of living conditions to improve.

How can we have rising employment levels, but decreasing median family income? People are finally beginning to realize that without adequate family income most of the “benefits” of society are simply empty promises made by politicians desperate for reelection. Racial injustice and economic oppression are complementary afflictions—each one feeds on and supports the other. Perhaps this is the direction in which many of the demonstrations are headed.

Maybe it’s time to resurrect the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) movement of a few years ago. If we seriously ask ourselves what Jesus would do about social, political, and economic injustices, and then identify a few particular ones of importance to us and our community, then perhaps we’ll deepen our understanding of oppression and stimulate our willingness to act.