I think about that a lot. We spend a big chuck of our time working to support a group of kids rescued from a life of sexual slavery. What does justice look like for those kids?
“Justice is what love looks like in public.” – Dr. Cornel West
Dr. West says justice means doing what we can to replace the greed and selfishness of exploitation with what he calls “unarmed truth and unapologetic love.” Justice, it seems, isn’t about punishment or vengeance or getting even. It’s about restoration, wholeness, setting thing right.
Dr. West isn’t talking about squishy, romantic love, that feeling of falling-in-love that comes and goes. He’s describing agape – the choice of sacrificial, unconditional love. Love that cares for others, that surrenders self. Jesus’ kind of love.
I get that an imperfect world needs a system to deal with criminal behavior. and I get that society’s system must include incarceration. Protection, deterrence, punishment…necessary, for sure, but not to be conflated with God’s notion of justice as restoration.
True justice rests on core values of truth and love. Not revenge. Not satisfaction. Not punishment.
Unarmed truth. Unapologetic love.
Am I willing to speak the unarmed truth, unapologetically, courageously? Even when it’s uncomfortable? When it’s risky? When you might reject me?
The truth: Millions of people are enslaved and exploited for labor or sex. Millions are refugees, forced to flee systemic abuse, violence, poverty, and oppression. Every one of them is a unique, precious child of God.
Any time we draw a line or build a wall in an effort to exclude them, to make them “outsiders” or “others,” we can be sure Jesus is on the other side.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” – Jesus