He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
This is what the Lord says:
“...let him who boasts boast about this:
that he understands and knows me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord.
In the Bible, justice has to do with land and labor and family structures; with ownership and employment; with widows, orphans, and immigrants; with food and water and housing; with access to God at the Temple—with everything, material or spiritual, that is required for a human being to thrive. God cares for ALL of what God has created, and therefore shows a special regard for the weak and the marginalized for whom society cares less. And since God shows a special regard for the weak and the poor, a corresponding quality is required of God’s people. God’s people must also be especially concerned with equity and fairness in society and economy, with guaranteeing every creature’s access to the necessities of life: to water, food, health, respect, attention, kindness, helpful community, and the opportunity to draw near to God.
As a foundation for life together, justice is a vast and widening gyre, and our authors in this issue of Quaker Life explore the theme from many angles.
Some of them consider justice as an institution, the attempt to mandate equity through laws and courts and prisons. Bill Eagles writes about his experience of justice as someone who is both a lawyer and has been imprisoned for conscience’ sake. Yohannes Knowledge Johnson writes about tangible experiences of God while imprisoned. Susann Estle reflects on the unacknowledged, often invisible aspect of what it means to remove a prisoner from society in the name of justice.
Some of this issue’s authors write about the inner struggle to be just to others. Michael Jay writes satirically about the cost of feeling superior to the Pharisee who feels himself superior to those around him—and how easy it might be to reach the wrong conclusions about some of the parables. Johan Maurer writes about the easy ways we damage those with whom we disagree, even though we remain convinced of our peaceableness. Katie Ubry-Terrell writes about enlarging her concept of “enemy” in order to believe that Jesus instructions to “love your enemies” applied equally to her as to others—then finding that she had a lot more work to do at loving her enemies than she believed. Howard Thurman writes about the protective (but ultimately self-destructive) power of hating those who have first hated you. And Kelly Kellum’s study on Micah 6:8 asks what each of us personally commits to when we commit to “act justly,” as the Lord requires.
Other authors write about the grace, love, and compassion that necessarily accompany God’s justice. Dave Phillips and Rose Smalley write about the movement of love and grief that initiated Wabash Friends Meeting’s ministry to unwed mothers. The North Carolina Fellowship of Friends shares the public prayer they’ve offered for God’s intervention in the present political landscape on behalf of kindness, mercy, and justice. And Nikki Holland, as part of her larger series on how living in Mexico transformed her relationship with God, writes about the realization that violence was pervasive in the families around her, and how she was drawn toward work that would disrupt that cycle, and to the women who were already involved in that work.
In all manner of ways, in thought and in deed, these authors reflect the Christian concern for imitating Christ by acting with equity; by considering family, friends, enemies, and strangers, every one, as beloved children of God—never anything less, neither anything more.