The importance of justice
I don’t suppose anyone can have escaped the surge in news covering the story of the Post Office Horizon software scandal and the hundreds of Sub-postmasters. If you have been living in a media blackout for the last few weeks or so, then I would highly recommend watching the ITV drama, Mr Bates versus the Post Office. It clearly lit the ‘blue touch paper’ on exploding this issue to the attention of the public, and seemingly forcing individuals, and government to do the right thing.
At the heart of the postmasters’ claim and the public response was an overwhelming desire for justice.
The emotional need for justice is visceral. Just watching the drama and the subsequent news interview left me feeling the same emotions as when as a child I was told off for something I had not done. Except for these people it wasn’t about a broken greenhouse window, it was about livelihoods, unsafe convictions, prison sentences and the loss of life of some concerned.
Justice and mercy are key attributes of God. We cannot fully appreciate the mercy of God without understanding His justice. Biblical justice is all about making things right. The parable of the widow in Luke 18:1-8 highlights the importance of victims getting justice. Like the widow in Luke 18, who kept demanding justice from the uncaring judge, victims want things to be put right. They seek for their voices to be heard and to not be seen as powerless.
Jesus spoke about justice but with a different emphasis. He advocated a personal approach to justice. A personal approach to justice sounds, on the face of it like vigilantism or an expression of the much misunderstood ‘eye for an eye’ but Jesus’s focus was more about our individual responsibility. A duty to bring justice by loving our neighbours and doing good for those around us, especially the poor and marginalized. He talked more about the responsibility of individuals than of authorities to promote good. Jesus defines his gospel as having a social component, which means the impoverished being lifted up, the “captive” to society’s wrongful norms being released, the physically hurting finding healing, and the, emotionally, spiritually or physically oppressed finding freedom. Whether you are a follower of Jesus or not, these are laudable things to strive for.
From the news articles of the day, I write this, it appears the sub-postmasters are one step closer to seeing their justice, I pray that each of us will be able to promote good and see justice in our own lives and for those around us. Justice may be blind but Jesus calls us not to be blind to injustice.
Behind the wall
Jenny and I have just returned from a short trip to Budapest in Hungary. I’ll spare you the family holiday photos but suffice to say we had a fantastic time visiting the sights, enjoying the food, and relaxing in the warm sunshine, yes sunshine even in early October.
Budapest has a rich and turbulent history. It is full of grand buildings with baroque and gothic architecture. We stayed in the Jewish quarter, home to the second largest synagogue in the world and frequented the restaurants and bars that filled the countless courtyards and passageways between the buildings. The bright and cheerful atmosphere belied the history of this place. As we walked into the city each day, we passed a pale-yellow wall of no significance. We passed it day after day. It was only on the last day that we noticed the sign reading:
“In the rear portion of this courtyard stood the last remaining part of a wall surrounding the Budapest ghetto demarcated in November 1944. Tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews - mostly children, women, and older men - were crowded behind this wall. Thousands among them did not survive to experience the liberation of the ghetto.”
So many things happen behind walls, beyond closed doors some of which we cannot possibly know and some of which as a society we choose not to know, just as some would have in the latter years of the second world war. As we move towards Remembrance Sunday where we look back at those that fought for freedom and to expose what was happening behind the walls of conflicts around the globe it is too easy to think these are events of a bygone age. The reality is that today behind closed doors terrible things still happen.
In Hungary two people amongst others are noted as taking a stand: Raoul Wallenberg and Carl Lutz. Carl was a Swiss career diplomat trained and experienced. Raoul was a Swedish diplomat with a more chequered background far less suited to the position. In fact, some sources claimed he only got the job because no one else would do it. Both were brave enough not to ignore what was going on behind the closed doors and walls of the ghetto. Between them they saved at least 70,000 people from death or deportation to the extermination camps.
As we look back, on Armistice Sunday, it is good to remember not all heroes wore a military uniform. As we look forward, it is my prayer that as a society we never normalise the mistreatment of a part of humanity or choose to ignore that mistreatment and that we learn from the sacrifice of those who stood up for justice in the past.