You can listen to this week’s Devotional here
Author: Jean Abbott
“…What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8
My interest in the word “justice” (as “fairness,” not retribution) dates to the time Jon Domenic Crossan spoke in our pulpit, pointing out that the way of the world is that victory leads to peace. That is what leaders have believed through history, and he believed that civilization’s drug of choice is the violence that leads to victory. But the message of the Bible is that violence doesn’t lead to peace; only fairness leads to peace.
I recently heard an interesting talk by two famous bioethicists related to a need raise “justice” in our hierarchy of values. Our main textbook of bioethics emphasizes four principles: autonomy, beneficence (doing good), non-maleficence (avoiding doing harm), and justice. By autonomy, we mean freedom from controlling interference by others, the right to choose for ourselves, to have our choices honored. Emphasizing autonomy was a corrective to the older paternalistic medical model – but it has become distorted. What if, the two discussants asked, we had put “justice” first as a measure of ethical decision-making, rather than autonomy.? And what would that look like in our society writ large?
- Would the right to bear arms so fiercely drown out the need to protect our most vulnerable?
- Would a chief “justice” of the Supreme Court feel as comfortable with the largesse he received?
- Would we still write the history our children learn without teaching the unfairness that is part and parcel or our heritage?
- Would front line healthcare workers feel so much moral distress if they got to treat patients equally?
A couple of weeks ago, several of us had the privilege of a docent-guided tour of Five Points – a rich part of Denver full of our unjust history. Our guide mentioned families vacationing in the mountain resort of Lincoln Hills to escape summer heat and segregation. Did you know this was the only resort catering to African Americans west of the Mississippi, according to History Colorado; did you know Lincoln Hills was and is on South Boulder Creek, 10 miles west of Eldorado Springs? Serviced by train and road from Denver, it even had a YMCA camp for Black families’ daughters who were barred from the other Ys.
May our church community continue to remind us of the need to fight for justice . . . as well as we are also reminded by Micah to be compassionate and humble. Justice is an active word, so I am grateful the many ways our congregation is moving beyond discussion to actions that might bend the arc of justice.