The following is the body of an email I sent to our church family at Life Church – Salisbury on Tuesday, May 12.
On Sunday, we began our worship gathering with a moment of lament over a number of examples of suffering that came to light last week. Chief among those sources of grief was the tragic, racially-motivated murder of Ahmaud Arbery. Corporately we lamented Arbery’s death, and the social injustices that surrounded it.
Regrettably, lament doesn’t get much attention in most modern Christian circles. Christians today tend to gravitate toward songs and books with themes of victory and celebration, rather than mourning and grief over the effects of sin and death in the world. Yet the Bible itself is full of lament, and lament seems to be the most-fitting first response to evil and injustice in a fallen world.
Of course, lament really shouldn’t be our only response to evil and injustice. If all we do is lament the expressions of brokenness we see in the world without ever taking action to combat that brokenness where possible, our lament will be tinged with hypocrisy. As Christians, we must take action – especially on behalf of those who suffer in this world. The book of James tells us, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27a). Care for those who suffer in a fallen world – in James’ day, the orphans and widows – is a necessary ingredient of true, saving faith. We serve a Savior who gave his life to serve the vulnerable; we must do the same. Scripture is clear about this.
Yet Scripture is less clear about exactly how we are called to serve the vulnerable. That service will and should look different in my life than it looks in yours. Each of us needs wisdom to discern what our own response will be when we see expressions of injustice and suffering in the world. We must act, but that action will be shaped by the gifts and opportunities God gives us, as well as the contexts and circumstances of our own lives.
As you consider prayerfully how you should respond to the realities of injustice in the world, I’d encourage you to remember three things.
First, our longing for justice points us to our Creator. As bearers of God’s image, we desire justice because God desires justice and is perfectly just. We protest injustice because God hates injustice. God’s perfect justice is stamped on our hearts. Though sin has marred his image in each of us, we continue to reflect his perfections in part. In this way, our longing for justice is ultimately a longing for God – to know him and to be in his perfect presence.
Second, our longing for justice reveals that we are made for eternity. We will never have perfect justice in this world. While we know that, we are still frustrated by it. That’s one reason why last week was so difficult emotionally for so many of us. Yet that frustration reveals that we aren’t made for this world, but for another. Only in eternity will our God of perfect justice bring about his perfect justice. In the meantime, our discontentment and angst with life in this fallen world reveals that we are created for a world fully redeemed and without sin, the new heavens and the new earth (see Revelation 21:1-5).
Finally, our longing for justice should produce deep gospel-humility. The perfect justice of our God is only good news because Jesus Christ satisfied God’s justice on the cross for all who trust him in saving faith. Apart from this good news, God’s justice would mean infinite, eternal torment. So let us not cry out against injustice in this world without first praising God for his grace. Let us not protest against brokenness without first reflecting on, confessing, and repenting of our ongoing brokenness. Apart from grace, none of us would be any better than those who murdered Ahmaud Arbery. None of us. We can – and should – protest injustice. But we should do so having first been humbled by the depths of our sin and the radical power of the gospel.