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ESTABLISHING EQUAL JUSTICE
The movements involved in Christianizing community life will not be accomplished by mere changes in its organization. They require an increase in its spiritual funds. They demand the full development of the cooperative spirit. The beginning of this development in community life is the effort to establish equal justice. This is a task to which Christianity long ago addressed itself.
Ye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for
These cities were duly established as Moses commanded.—Cf. Josh. 20: 1-9. Here are the beginnings of community procedure to limit the right of the individual to take blood revenge. Here is evidence of the fact that when men begin to live together in communities, the right and power of individuals must be restrained, there must be adjustment between the clash of rights. So there developed judges, courts, and laws.
The whole process can be traced in the Old Testament—the elders sitting at the gate, judgment passing to the hands of the king, and then into an assembly. So in Europe feudal justice, the high, the middle, and the low, all for different classes, gave way to trial by jury and all the processes of modern democratic justice. Our own development in the Western states went through similar stages : first there was the unrestrained right of the individual; then the Vigilance Committee; and these in turn were restrained by the advent of the law.
The difference between this development and that recorded in the Old Testament is that in Hebrew life the administration of justice was intimately connected with religious thinking and feeling. Do men now feel that justice must be held sacred? How can our own courts be made worthy of religious respect from the people?
SECOND DAY: The God of Justice
The Rock, his work is perfect;
Just and right is he.—Deut. 32: 4.
Read Isa. 45: 21. Why is it that the Scriptures continually refer to God as just? Is it because this is the quality that men desire? The prophets continually talk of a God of justice. . He requires of men that they shall be just. If religion is to be a community affair and not simply a matter between the individual and God, those who are equal before God also come to equality with one another. This equality is first established under the law. This has been one of the greatest contributions of our Western civilization to human development. It took the foundation of Roman law and extended it to all people in the community. Look over your own communitydo the relations between the groups of people who live in it satisfy the ideals of justice in the Old Testament? Would they satisfy Jesus' teaching concerning neighbor love?
THIRD DAY: The Unjust Have to be Spotted
And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man.-II
Read context II Sam. II: 2-12: 15. It was no pleasant thing for the prophet to risk his life by facing the unjust king. Nathan had no easy time standing
before David and saying “Thou art the man." Yet God's men can never be silent when injustice is done. They cannot abide one law for the rich and another for the poor. They must interfere at any cost. It was said of Knox, “Here lies one who never feared the face of man,” because he was never afraid to rebuke injustice in high places. Luther could “do no other," God helping him. He must stand and speak out against the injustice of the Church. So Jesus could not witness extortion as he passed through the temple and remain passive. God's followers must ever lift the voice and raise the hand against injustice.
A young man walking upon the streets at night saw a policeman take a drunken man to an alley and club him viciously. Should he have taken any action? Is self-interest or otherinterest the law of progress? The philosophers of self-interest tell us that no group has ever fought except for themselves. Yet in the labor movement, the union time and again will fight for the cause of the unorganized worker. The chivalry of tomorrow is that of one group fighting for others. Which takes more courage—to stand for the rights of others or to stand for one's own rights?
FOURTH DAY: The Righteous Have No Corner on Justice
I hate, I despise your feasts, and I will take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Yea, though ye offer me your burnt-offerings and meal-offerings, I will not accept them; neither will I regard the peaceofferings of your fat beasts. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. But let justice roll down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.Amos 5: 21-24.
Read also Amos 8: 4-7; Isa. I: 12-17.
The prophet always rudely insists on pushing religion out from temple walls to the market-place and field. He declares that God prefers brotherhood to ritual; that he wants justice before ceremony. Jesus put the same teaching in another
form when he told the temple worshippers to inquire whether their brother had anything against them. If so, they must leave their gift at the altar and go to establish brotherhood. What would that test do today to our church-going, our revivals, our conventions and religious assemblies? If there be in the land any people who do not share life on terms as favorable as those enjoyed by the majority of folks within the churches, God wants something more than church worship. He desires his justice to be established in all the relations of the community life.
FIFTH DAY: Honor to Whom Honor Is Due
And Paul, looking sted fastly on the council, said, Brethren, I have lived before God in all good conscience until this day. And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth. Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: and sittest thou to judge me according to the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law ?-Acts 23: 1-3.
Such language as this coming from Paul, who was somewhat of a stickler for respect for authority, is rather startling. It is true he takes it back partially when he discovers to whom he is speaking, but he has good cause for his outburst and there was authoritative precedent for him. The language that Jesus used to the authorities who sat in judgment over the people was not exactly polite or reverent. The Scripture gives no warrant for respect for unjust authority. There can be no sanctity around men merely because they hold office. The official must gain the reverence of the people by his acts and attitudes, not by his office. The day has gone by when either priest or judge could claim to be sacrosanct. When a noted denominational leader paid a fine of twenty-five dollars for expressing his opinion in public concerning a judge who had made a notorious decision in a liquor case, he declared it was worth twenty-five dollars to express his opinion of such a court.
If judges will represent all the people, if they will hold up ideals of impartial justice, the people will respond. At a meeting in her early days at Hull House, Miss Addams was challenged by a labor leader, saying that she was under the influence of the capitalists. She replied that she was not controlled by capitalists, nor did she propose to be bullied by labor. The instant applause of the gathering showed its appreciation of independence and fairness.
Sixth Day: Playing Tricks on Justice
So when Pilate saw that he prevailed nothing, but rather that a tumult was arising, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this righteous man; see ye to
it.—Matt. 27: 24. Here is the typical politician. He does injustice not willingly, but indirectly and by evasion. He has a just law to administer, but his future is at stake. What is one Jewish life against that? So he hides behind the responsibility of the Jewish leaders. The trick is as old as Babylon and as new as Chicago. We have made progress from the bribery of the ancient East, but is the spirit of Christianity expressed in all fullness in our local administration of government?
Politicians who use office for their own profit or political future continually gamble with human rights, even as Pilate did. In order that their business friends may make profit out of the board of education, they condemn the children to inefficiency. In the sacred name of loyalty they let the gang plunder the institutions for the care of the sick and the aged, with never a thought of their treachery to the helpless. For the sake of the machine, they cripple the health department and leave the people to die. Who is responsible for this?
SEVENTH DAY: Neither Jew nor Greek, Barbarian, Scythian,
Bond or Free