Thought for the week, 12th March; Justice and Injustice
The news at the moment is full of stories about injustices, real or perceived. At the start of the week the focus was on the Royal family; a private dispute within a family that has become public. Then there was the grim news of the murder of Sarah Everard as she walked to her home in London. This has re-awakened the issue of male violence against women. Both of these stories have been accompanied by much comment on social media, avidly reported by the media.
Rightly or wrongly, some of the public reaction has left me feeling uneasy, particularly responses that seem to condemn groups or individuals based on very little evidence. The Bible takes much interest in justice; God is frequently described as a God of Justice, who cares for the oppressed and condemns the oppressors. There is a recognition that victims may need to express themselves in brutal terms to deal with what has happened. Those of a certain vintage may recall the pop group Bonny M having a hit single with a reggae version of Psalm 137; By the Rivers of Babylon. “There we wept, while we remembered Zion”. It’s an uplifting version of the psalm but they left out the last verse, addressed to the oppressors; “Happy is he.. who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks”. Injustice damages the victims in many ways; it can brutalise them, but the Bible recognises that all their emotions need to be brought before God for healing. Victims need justice. But justice must be directed against the actual perpetrators; it must be based on facts and any punishment must be proportionate. In John’s Gospel there is the story of how the Pharisees caught a woman in the act of adultery; they organised a mob who dragged her to Jesus in the hope he would allow them to stone her to death. But Jesus rejected the judgement of the crowd, the easy but lazy thinking that just sees stereotypes. He turned justice back on the mob, asking the one without sin to cast the first stone. When emotions run high and voices cry out for simple solutions, Jesus challenges us to seek justice but to ensure it is free from injustice. You may want to listen to Boney-M, to see how they deal with this by changing the words of the Psalm 137; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmdTK3oeho4