Justice is a theme that can be followed throughout the Bible, mentioned hundreds of times. It is not only relevant to the people of those times, but to our world today in a huge way. If you watch the news or read the paper and see what is happening all around us every day, you see so many injustices, big and small. For me I find it is so easy to shut my mind to this and say that it isn’t relevant to me, that it is all happening so far away and that I can’t help anyway so why should I get all down about all of the awful things happening? Although it may be easier to live this way, I have come to realise that this is not the way to approach our world, this is not what God is calling me to.
Let’s talk about Biblical justice. The Hebrew word for justice, ‘mishpat’, occurs around 400 times in the Bible. It means to treat people with equality and give to each what he is due. It relates, therefore, not just to punishment but to reward and care. ‘Mishpat’ refers to these things regardless of a person’s gender, race or standing in society and it is interesting to see that these things are not yet realised in society today – we do not have a world in which justice is a reality. We cannot expect to live in a perfect world because through sin and disobedience we have allowed evil into our world which will not be made perfect until the second coming of Our Lord, Jesus, when justice will be brought for all by our Judge and Creator. Despite knowing that our world cannot be made perfect in its fallen state, God calls us to strive for justice in our own live, in our relationships and for all people around the world.
In Amos 21-24, we are told:
The Lord says, “I hate your religious festivals; I cannot stand them! When you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; I will not accept the animals you have fattened to bring me as offerings. Stop your noisy songs; I do not want to listen to your harps. Instead, let justice flow like a stream, and righteousness like a river that never goes dry.
And in Matthew 23:23 Jesus speaks up about justice, saying:
“How terrible for you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees! You hypocrites! You give to God one tenth even of the seasoning herbs, such as mint, dill, and cumin, but you neglect to obey the really important teachings of the Law, such as justice and mercy and honesty. These you should practice, without neglecting the others.”
And so it is clear that God demands justice from his people, and we should be concerned for the vulnerable. Even more so, God asks for justice from us because He is introduced throughout the Old Testament as the defended of the downtrodden and God of Justice.
And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for he is a God of Justice. Psalm 50:6
For justice to be used in the very title and introduction of God it must be a pretty big deal. We model ourselves on and strive to become more like Our God who cares deeply for the vulnerable of our society, and so we must strive to do so also.
One particular injustice which my eyes have recently been opened to is that of human trafficking and modern day slavery. Did you know that right now, there are somewhere between 21 and 30 million slaves in the world? That is around 1 in every 243 people alive on earth (Global Slavery Index 2012). You may think that slavery is a thing of the past, that only happened many years ago on American plantations but today, there are more slaves than there have been at any other time in history. Human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, transport and receipt of persons by means of threat, force or coercion to be exploited by another person. This exploitation can take the form of sex slavery, forced labour and removal of organs. Discovering this shocked and horrified me, to think that so many of God’s precious children have been taken from their homes and exploited, being forced to work for the gain of another in terrible conditions. And to think that had I been less fortunate than I am, had I been born in a different part of the world, then this could have easily been me. I was further disturbed to discover that New Zealand is not exempt for this, in fact despite slavery being illegal in majority of countries there have been victims of trafficking traced from, through or to 162 countries worldwide. This industry for buying and selling humans is now the third largest and fastest growing criminal industries worldwide, generating $32 billion in profit each year. The average price to buy yourself a slave is $90.
This is just a short introduction to a huge injustice that is spreading throughout our world, and one that is so hidden and not spoken about. I know that I am still so ignorant about things happening not so far from my safe, comfortable world but I know now that I cannot stand idly by as such evil occurs. So what can we do?
- Pray! Our God is a mighty and powerful God who cares deeply for His people. This is not a battle we can fight without the supernatural power of God. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” 1 John 5:14-15
- Raise awareness. This issue of human trafficking is one that I was introduced to by some very passionate young people who had, much like myself, heard about it and been horrified. Ignoring the problem will not help anybody, and secrecy and ignorance is what this industry of buying and selling people thrives upon.
- Give to those who are working on the front lines. There are many people out there who are working to discover victims of trafficking, to help them escape and to then work with them to recover from the physical and mental trauma they have experienced. We cannot all be there doing this work, but we can help those who are doing it to continue to truly make a difference, whether we can give a little or a lot. Some locally based agencies doing brilliant work are Hagar and Freeset.
Human trafficking is a horrible injustice, but sadly it is just one of the many great wrongs in our world. There may be something else that really hits your heart and that you are passionate about restoring justice to, big or small, and I invite you to please share this in the comments! It could be bullying at school, abortion, gender equality or anything in between. Wherever your passion for justice lies, the three steps above can apply, but I encourage you to become aware of what is happening in the world and to speak out for those who are being exploited and abused. It may be hard or discouraging for us to see and hear of all these awful things, but think how much harder it is for those who live in it.
“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”