In the Book of the prophet Micah, we read the words “to act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly” (6:8). To me, love and humility are very well defined in the Bible but I have often wondered what does it mean to be just? For many people, this would mean that one has to act fairly in all circumstances. However, is this really possible? From our daily lived experience we know that this is extremely challenging and sometimes almost impossible. We often use terms like just, justice, equality, fair interchangeably and at times thinking that they are all the same. Even in the Church’s vocabulary, we have used words like just war, just distribution, gender equality, fair wages, etc.In recent times, we have all heard the call, especially on social networking sites, for the Church to be more engaged in issues pertaining to justice.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Justice cannot be for one side alone, it must be for both sides.” When we examine the virtue of justice as practised in our daily lives, we will discover that there are many times we act in a manner that benefits ourselves more than the other person in the pretext of justice. If being just is about being fair to all, then justice can be related to the “golden rule”: Do to others as you would have them do to you (Luke 6:31).
Often we would like others to treat us in a manner that empowers us but there are times when we do not act in the same way towards others. I recall some weeks ago when I was in the supermarket and heard a mother reprimanding her son for being rude and not saying please when he wanted his mother to get a box of biscuits that he was pointing at. When she put the box into the trolley, she reminded him to say thank you. However, this same mother who later was in front of me at the cashier, neither said please nor thank you to the cashier who helped put her groceries into bags and into the trolley. So, we can fight for justice, equality and fairness on many issues but if we do not act in a way that is just in our everyday lives, then we might as well call ourselves “hypocrites”… a word Jesus did not hesitate to use on the leaders during his time.
If we are to act in a manner that is right and just, we surely need faith in Jesus. In the words of the great Roman philosopher Cicero, the foundation of justice is good faith. It is faith in Jesus that will open our eyes to see not only the injustices that occur in the world but also the injustices that we perpetuate in our daily dealings with one another. If we want to seek a more just world, then it has to begin with me!