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Forensic or Social Justice?

May 26, 2015
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I was recently reminded by a dear friend that justice is such a highly confusing topic when discussed in America. As we engaged in conversation, I began to realize why certain circles tend to talk about it without outsiders from other circles being around to hear or contribute. In America, we have the white circle and we have the black circle. In other words, justice is defined and honed in based on the cultural makeup of the group.

What I learned is that white circles typically lean towards forensic justice. They tend to trust in the justice system, are willing to let the case go before the judge and jury, look forward to the forensic evidence put forth in those cases, and await the final verdict. What I realized is that black circles typically lean towards social justice. We tend to believe we know what happened in most cases, don’t really need the forensic evidence provided (unless it’s the cops against blacks), expect the judge and jury to give a disfavorable verdict, and feel better off handling justice our own ways.

What’s a sad reality is that these leanings occur in both Christian and non-Christian circles. One’s trust and faith in the one who secured the most radical justice doesn’t seem to permeate, infiltrate, and even override the cultural leaning. It’s as if the culture is left untouched mentally, while physically the person acts like a believer.

Or do they?

I believe the Church has managed to fool itself into thinking that members must be Christian only on Sundays, and only on certain topics. When talking to other believers about real life issues plaguing the same city or state, even within the same local church, these white and black members choose to talk past each other instead to one another. Let us not forget the parable of the good Samaritan and its relevance here. What does justice look like? According to Jesus, the self-righteous determine justice to be something others ought to do because they have more spiritually pressing things to do. While the persons in tune with their inability to ever be righteous on their own seek to obtain justice for all. Yes, even those who don’t look like them or like them.

Some differ on what to define as justice even beyond this purview and that’s understandable. But let us not forget this simple teaching from Jesus: meeting the needs of the hurting or oppressed in the best possible physical, financial, mental, emotional, and spiritual way is what Christians are called to do. And if Christians are overly reluctant to seek that for folks from all sides, then we are forced to rely upon non-Christians who may extend grace to the hurting.

So let us be mindful and thankful for forensic justice. Let us seek social justice not at the cost of the gospel. Let us gospelize the society. And let us consider the hurting and oppressed as Jesus called us to do.


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