Since we have started our work with Justice Water, it has been humorous how many times folks have approached us, sort of in a half-joking-half-“I’m-serious” attitude and asked us, “So, why Justice Water?” They follow this open ended question up with “What does justice mean to you anyway?” I have to be honest. I don’t like these questions. Or, rather, I don’t like how uncomfortable they make me feel. And… of course, I feel uncomfortable because surely we should be able to answer that question with confidence and excitement. The evoked emotions are, instead, confusion, slight agitation and overall annoyance. Truth is, God is still doing so much work in our small weak hearts to overhaul our worldview. In that, we have begun to chip away at our meager “justice” box and are starting to see the beauty and mystery that ensues.
Justice. In Hebrew context, there are two words that are used to cover justice. The word mishpat indicates the action of doing right. These are things such as helping people, standing up for them…etc…etc. However, it doesn’t end there. The other word sedek, is the Hebrew word for righteous, or having a pure heart. While our world and culture like to separate these two words (doing something for the sake of revenge or for the sake of “what’s right”), these words are used over and over together in the Old Testament. Could it be that the Biblical definition of justice is not only doing the right thing, but having the right heart? As the New Testament is in Greek, you will find that “justice” or “righteousness” are often the same word in the ancient text. The word there is dikaios, and unfortunately it doesn’t always translate over well. For instance, my favorite scripture, the Sermon on the Mount, says “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5). Something quite mind blowing is that the word for righteousness is that Greek word dikaios, so the scripture can actually be interpreted as “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice and righteousness (doing the right thing, with the right heart).” Who knew this was something so dear to God’s heart?
The best part about all of this is that He shows us how to be just. As He takes our hands and teaches us to love, with that same grace and gentleness, He teaches us how to be just. He teaches us how to pick up the causes of the marginalized while maintaining the proper heart behind it. How? …Well, it is Easter weekend. He teaches us through His cross. He teaches us by being the perfect example of doing the right, loving thing with the best and most righteous heart. He came into a Roman occupied society. He was born in a feeding trough. He was poor. His family had little. When He came into ministry, people were always out to get Him, to make an example of Him, to catch Him doing something wrong. He experienced an unjust trial according to laws of that day regarding trials. He was beaten, bruised, rejected and abandoned by all of his friends and family. He died the most painful death of Roman Crucifixion. He went to hell for iniquities of the world. Jesus showed us perfect justice by enduring the biggest injustice.
When I look at the story of Jesus and I look at what we have spent the past two years of our lives doing in and out of Haiti, I am totally humbled. What we do is far from perfect justice. It is flawed, from the very core. I look at the human life of Jesus. His circumstances. And, then, I turn to my Haitian friends. My brothers and sisters. Their lives are truly far from just. They have been hurt deeply by their choices, their culture and…the overall brokenness of the world. I could write stories I have heard- of rape, incredible amounts of abuse, lack of integrity in any organized structure- from government to family, injustices regarding schools, the Church, voodoo. I look into my friends’ eyes and hear their stories. I think to myself How could this be? These guys were children when this happened. They didn’t deserve this. Humbly, I am reminded of the life of Jesus again. And, I am filled with Hope.
If Jesus had remained in Hell, then this would be a different blog. However, the Hope that is found in His resurrection is overwhelming. It is because of Jesus’ justice (and the way He overcame injustice) that we have hope. It is because of what the cross represents that we can look at Haiti and all of the island of Hispaniola and see beyond circumstance. We can look at the death and poverty and destruction and injustice and remember that God is a God of justice. He, unlike us, is not a God of revenge, but of restoring things. He longs to restores us all to a good heart which produces good actions effortlessly. He longs to restore us to Himself.
So, as we celebrate this Easter weekend and prepare to go out into the world to empower more of Hispaniola and bring clean water to a community just west of Azua, let us remember the cross. Let us remember that He came so we could live lives of LOVE, reconciliation and justice. He didn’t come so we could promote hate, show intolerance, with hold forgiveness, judge or just “do the right thing” without a heart with pure motives. Let us continue to hold fast to what He has given us through His death and resurrection. Let us ask God to show us how to give justice while maintaining a heart of sacrificial love. Here’s to trying, failing, and doing it again and again… Happy Easter!